Can CBD Cream Relieve Arthritis & Joint Pain?

CBD Cream for Joint Pain & Arthritis

Perhaps you’ve noticed the progressive stiffness in your knees and elbows over the last several years, slowing you down and preventing you from enjoying the active lifestyle you once embraced.   

If bending over to pick things up off the floor is nearly impossible, and other joints are just as stubborn, causing daily pain and/or inflammation, you’re not alone. Not by a long shot.

If you’ve noticed increasing difficulty performing daily activities, or your hands and feet are swollen and painful, you may be one of the estimated 54 million Americans suffering from arthritis. 

While the diagnosis of arthritis, or even just generalized joint stiffness and pain, once meant a lifetime of anti-inflammatory medications and potential surgery, there may be a more modern alternative: CBD cream.

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid derived from cannabis, hemp and other plant sources that has shown great promise in the realm of medicinal applications. With an increasing wave of research results and medical studies being conducted, we’re beginning to better understand how CBD cream and other CBD applications may be used to help treat or alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, joint pain, and other ailments.

But First, What Is Arthritis?

“Arthritis” is not a singular disease. Rather it is a sort of “catch-all” term utilized by the medical community to describe a variety of degenerative joint diseases and joint pain.

Arthritis can affect individuals of any age, though it is typically more common among the aging population and more prevalent in those ages 30 or older who lived a physically active or demanding lifestyle, thus causing more “wear and tear” on their joints.   

Some common types of arthritis include: 

Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, occurs when the cartilage in the joints wears away. Over time, as the joints lose cartilage, the bones rub against one another, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

As the disease progresses, joints lose their strength and can lead to loss of mobility or even total disability.

Inflammatory Arthritis: When your immune system isn’t properly functioning, it can begin to attack the joints with uncontrolled inflammation. This inflammation not only damages the joints that become inflamed, but can damage other parts of the body such as eyes and internal organs. Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. 

Infectious Arthritis: If your body becomes infected by certain bacteria or diseases, it can cause inflammation in the joints. Some organisms that can infect joints include salmonella, chlamydia, and hepatitis C.

What Are Some Symptoms of Arthritis?

While the signs and symptoms of arthritis vary from person to person and depend on the type of arthritis, some common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

These symptoms can localize around one or a few joints on the body, such as knees, elbows, and knuckles, or the inflammation and pain can be felt throughout the body.

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Arthritis is diagnosed in several steps:

  1. Your doctor takes your health history, symptoms, and other medical information.
  2. A physical examination and manipulation of your joints is done.
  3. Lab tests may be ordered to determine inflammation levels and whether other systems are working properly.
  4. Diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, may be taken to view the joints in detail and look for damage.

Based upon the results of all these steps, your doctor may make a diagnosis of arthritis and work with you on a treatment plan.

How is Arthritis Normally Treated?

Treatment of arthritis is never a one-size-fits-all solution. Sufferers usually have to make a variety of changes to their daily routines, including:

  • Diet & exercise: Many types of arthritis can be exacerbated by being overweight or eating a diet high in inflammatory foods. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular light exercise can improve many of the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Painkillers & opioids: These medications, depending on type, work to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. However, many have a variety of other negative side effects and, in the case of opioids, can become highly addictive.
  • Arthroplasty: For very severe cases, joint replacement surgery can be recommended. It often is used on knee and hip joints, and can be very effective and last up to 20 years. However, surgery is a very expensive option and not a solution suited to everyone.

How Can CBD Cream Help with Joint Pain?

If you’re searching for an alternative to medications and surgery, you may have stumbled upon CBD cream as a potential option. But how can something derived from a plant that makes you high be effective as a safe painkiller? 

A 2011 study by the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Calgary investigated the effect of CBD on joint pain in rats. It found that CBD decreased inflammatory pain in the rats, changing the way pain receptors respond to stimuli.

CBD interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) - the system that regulates many critical processes in the body - in a similar way that other painkillers do, decreasing inflammation and reducing pain.

These findings were backed up by studies in 2014 and 2017, both of which showed that the use of CBD decreased inflammation and blocked pain from arthritis.

As a pain reduction and anti-inflammatory aid, CBD is and has been showing great promise, with many individuals reporting a dramatic improvement in symptoms after use.

Why Are CBD Creams Preferred over Other Cannabis Methods?

There are a variety of ways to use cannabis for pain relief. 

The most traditional way is smoking cannabis. This method, however, is only legal in certain states and under certain conditions. Additionally, smoking cannabis leads to that “high” feeling from the THC, something many patients wish to avoid.  

Traditional smoking also can negatively impact health, as the combustion process that takes place when burning the cannabis can release harmful compounds into your lungs and respiratory system.

Vaping or consuming concentrates can be less harmful to the lungs, but you again run into the issue of whether or not consumption is legal where you live. These methods also are more costly than traditional cannabis, leaving them out of reach for some people.

Oils and tinctures have become increasingly popular. CBD oils are processed to remove the THC, or the compound that gets you high. Because of this, they are more widely legal and more widely available.  

Using oils and tinctures means you hold a small amount of the liquid under your tongue before swallowing it. This allows you to know exactly how much CBD you are getting.

However, for topical pain relief associated with arthritis, using a cream infused with CBD is preferred. Here are a few reasons why:

It Can Be Applied Directly to the Pain

If your knee hurts, you can apply CBD cream directly to the knee and receive relief. Other delivery methods are better for more widespread ailments, such as anxiety, depression, or migraines, and less effective for targeted pain relief.

Improved Bioavailability

When ingesting CBD oil, less of the CBD compound is available to relieve pain due to the digestion process. Applying CBD cream directly onto the skin means the maximum amount of CBD can be used to decrease inflammation and release pain. 

It Can Be Diffused Across the Skin

Again, ingestion methods are better for relief from generalized pain or discomfort. When applying a CBD cream, the CBD stimulates receptors at the site of your pain, bringing faster, more effective relief.

Conclusions on CBD Creams & Joint Pain Relief

While the full effects of CBD on a variety of types of pain are still being investigated and their use is widely debated, the studies that have been conducted show that it is an effective, less addictive way of relieving pain in people with arthritis and generalized joint pain.

Before trying CBD cream or any other method to reduce pain from arthritis, speak with your doctor to determine if this is an option that’s right for you.