October 12th marks World Arthritis Awareness Day, which is a global awareness-raising effort aimed to educate, support, and build a sense of community among arthritis patients. With an emphasis on early diagnosis and treatment, rheumatoid and musculoskeletal disease organizations work to foster a growing understanding of one of the world’s most prevalent conditions. As one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, arthritis affects the functioning and quality of life of more than 50 million Americans. Treatment options range from hydrotherapy to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, however, increased attention is being directed toward the healing potential of cannabidiol (CBD).
Recent research has found cannabidiol oil to be an effective treatment option for arthritis and chronic pain symptoms associated with the condition. Despite its therapeutic effects, CBD has had limited regulation thus far and recommendations for treatment protocols of the wide range of diseases it is used to treat are lacking. Similarly, there was no guidance for the use of CBD in arthritis patients or how to consume CBD-infused products safely. Now, the Arthritis Foundation has released the first-ever guidelines for CBD, hoping to provide some clarity for usage despite the remaining lack of clinical data supporting its benefits.
After conducting a survey of over 2,500 patients, the Arthritis Foundation found that nearly 80% of the cohort had either tried CBD or considered using it to relieve pain and inflammatory symptoms. While the guidelines do not endorse the use of the product, they provide much-needed guidance for patients using or curious about trying CBD.
CBD Guidelines for Arthritis Patients
According to the Arthritis Foundation, CBD may be beneficial for the treatment of arthritic-related symptoms – including pain, insomnia, and anxiety –however, scientific evidence is lacking to date. Prior animal-based studies implicate the compound has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, however, these effects are yet to be validated by human studies.
Although the preliminary safety profile of CBD taken at moderate doses does not indicate severe adverse effects, potential drug interactions may occur, warn the guidelines. CBD should not be used to replace prescription medications that work to prevent permanent joint damage in inflammatory arthritis; patients looking to phase out disease-modifying drugs should do so under the care of a physician. In addition, all CBD use should be discussed with clinicians and evaluated at follow-up visits.
While there are no clinically established guidelines yet, experts currently recommend beginning with a low dose and increasing in small increments weekly if relief is insufficient. Similarly, the product lacks FDA regulation, which requires consumers to take extra caution when purchasing CBD. The Arthritis Foundation recommends buying CBD from reputable companies that test the purity, potency, and safety of their products using an independent laboratory and provide a certificate of analysis.
Despite the lack of clinical guidance, the sheer popularity of CBD use among arthritis patients has urged organizations, such as the Arthritis Foundation, to develop preliminary recommendations to better inform patient usage. As part of their mission to empower patients to find safe management strategies for their symptoms, the Arthritis Foundation has urged the FDA to expedite its research and regulation of CBD. In the meantime, it is important for clinicians to stay educated on the treatment strategy and safety protocols of CBD for the management of a wide range of conditions – most notably, chronic pain.