CBD Oil for Arthritis and Joint Pain: Benefits, Effects and Risks

Arthritis is very common and currently affects up to 15% of Australians. It is a degenerative condition affecting joints, causing swelling, pain and limiting movement. For most people, it will occur in joints such as the knees, elbows or wrists. CBD or cannabidiol is proving to be a means of naturally mitigating this inflammatory condition. It can counteract both the inflammation which afflicts the joint, as well as the associated pain arthritis causes. Some of its advantages include being natural and well tolerated, having low side effect risk, being non-addictive, plus providing a range of health benefits outside of arthritis mitigation. Let’s explore how and why you might use CBD for arthritis.

What Causes Arthritis?

When arthritis strikes, the sheath within the joint becomes inflamed, damaged and decays. Acute forms of this inflammation in the joint’s sheath are called tenosynovitis. This inflammation is accompanied by swelling, redness, tenderness, pain and stiffness within the joint. For those with arthritis, the condition can be debilitating and significantly reduce the quality of life. It can cause constant chronic pain, reduce mobility, lowered confidence and less ability to exercise.

Arthritis isn’t a single condition. There are more than 100 different disorders of the joint which can be categorized as a form of arthritis. Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are the most common and well-known. The difference between these two conditions is immune response involvement. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the joint due to misidentifying irritants or pathogens. Osteoarthritis on the other hand is caused by natural degradation of the joint tissues over time due to age.

In both cases, the symptoms can be caused or worsened by a range of factors. Age is a significant factor in joint health and arthritis. As we grow older the body loses function and degenerates, which can also happen in the joints. Genes may also predispose some people to arthritis. Lifestyle and weight factors can exacerbate risks – particularly for those who are obese and place significantly more weight stress on the joint. If joint injuries have previously been incurred, it can also cause worse arthritis to form or acceleration of symptoms. Most arthritis is the result of chronic inflammation. The inflammatory response is particularly the problem with rheumatoid arthritis. 

What is CBD Oil? How it Works

CBD oil is a therapeutic product that is created when the resin from cannabis sativa is extracted and refined into a concentrated oil. It contains the cannabinoid CBD or cannabidiol which is highly anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiolytic and helps with mood, energy, sleep plus immune function. It provides these benefits by acting on the endocannabinoid system in the body and causing the release of therapeutic endocannabinoids. Some like anandamide and 2-AG are potent at lowering both inflammation and pain, helping to mitigate the symptoms and discomfort of arthritis.

Does CBD Help With Arthritis?

Some important characteristics of cannabinoids like CBD make them beneficial when used for arthritis. They can help users improve quality of life by lowering pain, and inflammation and helping to mitigate symptoms while simultaneously aiding with stress.

Soothing Arthritis Inflammation

Cannabinoids like CBD are anti-inflammatory. It acts on CB2 cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, causing endocannabinoids to be released. Importantly there are CB2 receptors that can be found within and around the joints. After binding to these receptors, the endocannabinoid is activated and releases endocannabinoids. These soothe inflammation by lowering the production of inflammatory proteins like cytokines. It can help to lower joint redness, swelling and irritation that accompanies arthritis. Endocannabinoids play a role in helping to normalise immune regulation and bring homeostatic balance to the inflammatory response. For rheumatoid arthritis this is important. CBD can help to normalise the autoimmune condition underlying this issue. It can support in preventing the body from attacking the joint through better immune signalling and T cell regulation.

Pain Relief

Arthritis is often accompanied by aches and pain in the joint which can hinder the ability to move, lowering confidence and quality of life. Through its analgesic or pain-relieving qualities, cannabinoids like CBD can assist in mitigating the experience of pain from arthritis. It does this through altering nociception, or the perception of pain. Pain occurs from nerve signals carried from peripheral nerves in the joints to the brain. The brain and CNS contains CB2 cannabinoid receptors. When activated by CBD, these receptors can modulate the pain response through endocannabinoids, helping us to perceive less pain. For those with arthritis, this is incredibly helpful and can assist with reduced stress from pain, better sleep, greater mobility and joint use, plus better life quality. Aiding with sleep is a side benefit of CBD which contributes to better recovery, lower inflammation and alleviation of arthritis symptoms. 

Immune Response Normalisation

Certain types of arthritis are due to the body’s immune response such as rheumatoid arthritis. When this condition strikes, T cells attack the body’s tissue due to misidentifying a foreign intruder or irritant it attempts to remove. If this continues to occur over a long period, it results in chronic inflammation from the tissue being attacked at a cellular level. Eventually tissue degradation, damage and worsening of symptoms. As most arthritis is degenerative, it worsens over time. Prevention and slowing the condition are essential. Normalizing immune system function is a key component of CBD’s capacity in treating arthritis. Endocannabinoids like 2-AG aid in improving immune system signalling and preventing it from misfiring against the body. They also assist in downregulating immune activity where it is overactive, helping to prevent T cells from incorrectly attacking the body.

Safety and Other Medications

On its own, CBD is highly safe, well tolerated and has low side effect risks. It can be used for arthritis daily without issues occurring from dependence or side effects. Numerous reviews on its safety have shown that the cannabinoid is non-psychoactive and has little risk even at high doses. Side effects are generally mild such as dry mouth or an upset stomach. The main risk in using CBD is combining it with other medications. It can cause adverse reactions if combined with NSAIDs being used for arthritis such as corticosteroids or DMARDs. Consult with your doctor if you are using any existing medication. They will guide you on appropriate usage. In some cases, CBD may be appropriate to use alongside existing medications as a supplementary anti-inflammatory support. This must be assessed and considered on an individual basis however as everyone is different and has unique arthritis symptoms.

How to Use CBD for Arthritis

There are numerous types of CBD products available to suit every individual’s tastes and preferences. Orally consumed products like edibles, capsules, oils or tinctures are effective and provide longer, sustained relief. These will absorb more slowly due to gut digestion, making them slower to take effect but effective to use for ongoing treatment. Capsules can be used if you are seeking to avoid the flavour of CBD. They’re less useful if you need a fast-acting reprieve from inflammation or prefer using sprays and creams. Absorption can take several hours and be slowed further if food is also consumed. You can even find products like CBD gummies or chocolates that help to mask the flavour of CBD and make dosing even easier to stick with.

Topicals can be used on the joint for targeted relief. This makes them excellent for arthritis as you can achieve concentrated CBD absorption into the joint’s cannabinoid receptors. CBD balms, creams and ointments for arthritis are excellent to get soothing, anti-inflammatory effects quickly. Unlike oral products, they don’t need to be digested. Applying to the skin enables more rapid and localized absorption to occur into the inflamed joint tissue, improving the concentration of cannabinoids in the region. Many topicals also contain nutrients and moisturising agents to help calm the skin, provide a cooling effect and boost blood flow to the area.

For many – inhaling CBD using vapes is ideal as a fast-acting solution. It is the most rapidly absorbed method of consuming CBD. Vaping releases atomised CBD into the lungs, which is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream via the lung’s membrane. The downside is vape cartridges often contain additives like glycol, artificial flavours, nicotine or other chemicals. These can damage your health and lungs over time. Balance the risk with the benefits and consider other options if you’re seeking to avoid compromising your cardiovascular health. 

Dosage for Arthritis

There isn’t a size fits all dosage to use when taking CBD for arthritis. Everyone has a unique physiology, response to CBD, symptom severity and arthritis type. It is critical to experiment with different dosage ranges and usage frequencies to find what will work for your symptoms.

Tips on Arthritis Dosage

Start with a low dose of several drops per day of CBD for arthritis. You can start to increase the dose if required for your symptoms after 4-6 weeks. High doses of 300mg-600mg can even be used once you have confirmed you can tolerate CBD. Low or high dosages can both be effective – it’s entirely dependent on the individual and their symptoms. Consider the strength of your product when dosing. Some CBD oils are high strength and you can get strong results without using much product. 

You need to be consistent when using CBD for arthritis. Dosing daily maximises the effects of CBD and endocannabinoid system activation. It significantly improves efficacy for arthritis and ensures the body has a constant production of anti-inflammatory endocannabinoids. Increasingly raise your dose over time if you’re not seeing results at first. But patience is key – don’t expect results immediately. You’ll also generally see better effects when combining CBD with lifestyle changes and other treatment options.

Is CBD an NSAID Alternative?

CBD may not be an alternative to prescription pharmaceutical interventions like NSAIDs for arthritis inflammation and pain. Don’t treat it as such. If you’re using one of these prescription anti-inflammatories like corticosteroids, stick to what your doctor has prescribed. They’re the experts on your condition and will offer the best health advice for you. CBD should only be used here if your doctor has identified it as suitable to use alongside your medication and worthy of trying for your conditions. Cannabinoids like CBD won’t be as potent as these compounds in lowering inflammation or pain but carry lower side effect risks. Don’t mix medications your using with CBD unless you’ve cleared it with your doctor. Doing so can carry the risk of liver harm due to the extra strain using medication with CBD places on it.

Choosing a Product

Use a CBD product which doesn’t contain THC. This is the psychoactive cannabinoid from hemp that carries higher side effect risk and can cause issues from psychosis or mental health problems. You should also opt for full-spectrum CBD products which contain terpenes and carry some advantages. Terpenes in these products are synergistic with CBD and other cannabinoids, improving their ability to fight arthritis and lower inflammation. Many terpenes like myrcene are anti-inflammatory themselves and can aid in lowering redness or swelling of the joint. They also operate on the endocannabinoid system and are effective in protecting the joints from further damage through their antioxidative and soothing properties.

There are a few ways to also avoid low-quality, ineffective or fake products. CBD can be expensive and buying weakened or fake products is a fast way to lose money. Aim to source organic products, produced from biodynamic hemp. These will be grown and cultivated in ways which minimise pesticide and herbicide use. Resultantly you can avoid contaminated oil from the extract. Similarly, they’re less likely to contain additives, artificial flavours or contain THC. Look for lab certificates provided by suppliers. These will detail the cannabinoid content of the product and give you assurance it contains what the label says. You should also seek reputable products that have reviews to lower the risk of buying poor quality or mislabelled CBD. Finally – seek out CO2-extracted forms of CBD. These are higher purity and strength plus don’t carry a risk of solvent contamination that can occur with alcohol-based extraction.


While arthritis is a debilitating condition, CBD is giving more individuals some relief from its inflammation and pain. Arthritis can occur from a range of factors but is primarily from inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis cases. One method of mitigating its symptoms is through the soothing and anti-inflammatory properties that cannabinoids like CBD provide. CBD works via the endocannabinoid system and several other metabolic pathways to do this. It aids in normalizing the immune response and lowering cytokine production, helping to decrease inflammatory activity. It also offers pain-relieving effects by limiting sensations of pain via the nerves. Simultaneously it aids with better sleep, recovery and wellbeing which can further reduce the incidence of arthritis pain.