Arthritis can cause debilitating pain and have a serious impact on your quality of life and, because it is a degenerative condition that worsens over time, it can take a toll on your mental health as well. In the UK alone, over 8.5 million people have osteoarthritis, and 71% (6 million) report being in constant pain. An additional half a million adults have rheumatoid arthritis, a more serious type of arthritis.
This has led to many people in the UK looking for an alternative to arthritis medications to complement and support their health and wellness. CBD oil has emerged as a popular natural wellness supplement been used for many years to aid in the relief of joint pain, especially in those with arthritis. Arthritis.org conducted a survey and found that there is significant use of and interest in CBD, with over 79% of respondents having used it or were considering using it. Nearly 30% of respondents were using CBD, with 75% of those experiencing some relief. Respondents reported improvements in physical function and morning stiffness, as well as improved sleep, decreased fatigue, and fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety. This is supported by research published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research that found that people with arthritis are among the leading purchasers of CBD with pain being cited as the primary reason for purchasing.
Initial studies look promising, but much research still needed to confirm the overwhelming body of anecdotal evidence showcasing CBD oil’s potential benefits for people living with arthritis.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation that affects one or multiple joints in the body. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, although there are over 100 different types of the condition. Arthritis is common in men and women over the age of 65, but can also develop in younger adults and even children.
The condition is caused by the reduction in cartilage that protects the joints. Cartilage acts as a shock absorber, reducing and absorbing pressure on the joints as you move around. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is generally attributable to normal wear and tear and can be exacerbated by infection or injury to the affected joints. Stiffness, swelling, and joint pain are symptomatic of arthritis, and over time you may experience a reduced range of movement and redness around the joints.
Could CBD oil help?
Arthritis can have a big impact on your quality of life as reduced joint mobility and pain make it more difficult to move around freely and go about your normal daily activities. Medication and physical therapy can have a beneficial impact, but studies are suggesting that CBD oil may also be included in a health and wellness regimen aimed at naturally reducing and controlling the effects of arthritis.
Full-spectrum CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant and contains a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other naturally-occurring, wellness-boosting properties. The most important ingredient is cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. It is linked to a wide range of therapeutic effects, including stress relief, improved sleep quality, and, most importantly, for those living with arthritis, pain relief.
In particular, animal studies looking at the efficacy of CBD suggest that it has both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. The effects are yet to be fully explored in human studies, but anecdotal evidence shows that many people living with arthritis find that it offers relief from some of the symptoms of arthritis.
Already chronic pain and joint pain are the top two medical conditions that people are taking CBD for, and the next three (anxiety, depression, and insomnia) are also conditions that affect many people living with arthritis.
How does CBD work?
CBD oil interacts with two receptors (CB1 and CBD2) in the body’s cannabinoid system with the effect of reducing pain and relieving inflammation. The CB2 receptor plays a role in your immune system function, and CBD is thought to help with rheumatoid arthritis where your immune system attacks the tissues in the joints. The anti-inflammatory effects may also help to slow the progression of the condition, which causes permanent damage to the joints.
What does the research say regarding CBD and Arthritis?
While more research is still needed to determine the effects of CBD and its role in relieving pain and inflammation for people with arthritis, there are a number of studies that show promising results.
The first controlled trial evaluating the use of cannabis-based medicine was in 2006. Sativex, produced from cannabis, was found to reduce inflammation and significantly reduce pain as well as improving sleep quality. Unfortunately, Sativex uses cannabis plant extractives, which contain levels of THC higher than 0.2%.
This was followed by a 2008 review of the efficacy of CBD in treating chronic pain. The conclusion was similar, finding that CBD was effective in reducing pain and improving sleep quality. These findings were supported by a 2011 study that demonstrated the link between CBD and reduced inflammatory pain. A 2014 review showed that CBD might be an effective treatment of osteoarthritis.
In 2016, another study looked at the effects of using CBD gel on rats. The gel was shown to reduce joint pain and inflammation. And a supporting 2017 study found that CBD could be a useful treatment for joint pain caused by osteoarthritis.
CBD oil has also been shown to help with reducing symptoms of depression. This is important for those living with arthritis as rates of depression are between two and ten times greater than the rate of depression for the general population.
Further research into the effects on humans is needed as the existing studies have either been done on animals or using very small sample sizes.
Is it safe (and legal) to use CBD oil in the UK?
CBD oil is considered safe to use, although you should consult with your doctor before trying it as CBD may interact with some of the common arthritis drugs, particularly a number of corticosteroids.
In terms of its legality, it is legal to consume CBD oil in the UK as long as the product contains less than 0.2% THC as it is a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971. Keep in mind, though, CBD is not considered a medical product, rather a natural health and wellness supplement.
If you have an arthritis diagnosis, you should only use CBD oil if it has been approved by your doctor. A medical specialist who has been treating your arthritis will be able to advise on whether CBD is likely to be effective in your situation, and what to look for when evaluating whether the CBD is successful in addressing your pain and inflammation. It should not be considered a substitute for medication that you are currently using to control your condition. Then, only use a quality CBD product from a reputable company to ensure that you are going to be able to get the best benefits from the oil.
The Arthritis Foundation offers additional guidance and cites the lack of rigorous clinical studies to confirm the effects of CBD. They agree that CBD may help with symptoms related to arthritis (including pain, insomnia, and anxiety), and confirm that there are no major safety issues when CBD is taken in moderate doses. The Foundation highlights that CBD doesn’t replace disease-modifying drugs, and use should be discussed with your doctor before you start taking.
What dose should I take?
CBD products can be ingested, applied to the skin, or inhaled in the form of a vape, but the most common option is CBD oil taken sublingually. This is because it offers excellent bioavailability compared to other options, and can be easily and conveniently included in your daily routine.
There are no clinical guidelines on how much CBD you should take, and many users report needing to experiment with the levels of CBD oil to find the right dosage. If you haven’t tried CBD before, it’s best to follow the dosage instructions on the label and start from a low base.
You can increase your dosage over time, starting with a few drops of CBD oil twice a day. Monitor your symptoms and note whether you are experiencing any benefits. If the pain relief is not noticeable or not significant after a week, increase the dosage slightly. Continue in this way over a period of several weeks to find the optimum dosage.
CBD can also be applied topically to help with stiff joints, either by mixing a few drops of CBD oil with a lotion or using a topical CBD product.
According to the Arthritis Foundation because there are no established clinical guidelines that you can follow to inform your usage, they thus recommend starting with a low dose. This can then be increased incrementally if relief is inadequate. They also suggest buying from a reputable company that uses third-party lab testing and provides certificates of analysis for their products.
With the number of people suffering from arthritis increasing every year in the UK, it’s no surprise that there is a renewed interest in alternative, complementary therapies that can help reduce the symptoms of this painful condition. While medication and oversight from medical professionals to manage the disease and slow its progression are still paramount, there is a growing body of research that points to the ability of CBD to offer important wellness benefits to those living with arthritis.
The journey is different for everyone, so for those with arthritis interested in trying CBD oil, the best option is to start slow and take only a small dose. This should be done in consultation with your doctor, and you should monitor your own symptoms to determine whether you notice an improvement in either your pain, the levels of inflammation, or your range of motion.