Signs promoting “CBD” supplies line the street on my way to work. A local vape shop carved its shop in half late last year to open a CBD storefront. Nutrition stores that are known for muscle-growing and weight-loss formulas have fresh signs promoting CBD-based products.

It’s extracted from cannabis, but CBD doesn’t have the key elements that produce the kind of high you expect from marijuana. 

Some people who suffer from chronic pain use CBD-based products to provide relief, but nearly all of the data in its effectiveness has been purely anecdotal. We’ve got about as much clarity on the effectiveness of Circus Peanuts.

At forums in Northern Virginia over the past few months focused on pain management, CBD is among the questions I’ve seen doctors juggle. The answer can be summed up as a thoughtful, careful, questioning shrug. Is it helpful? Is it harmful? The jury isn’t out, the members haven’t been called to court.

Noting the growing popularity and availability of CBD-based products, the Arthritis Foundation recently released its guidance on how to use these products. Their guidance can generously be described as curious, but not terribly supportive. 

The foundation notes in its guidance that there is limited scientific evidence about CBD’s ability to ease arthritis symptoms. There’s also holes in standards for how to use CBD products.

While recognizing that those gaps exist, the foundation wants to provide general recommendations for those interested in trying CBD.  

“CBD may help with arthritis-related symptoms, such as pain, insomnia and anxiety, but there have been no rigorous clinical studies in people with arthritis to confirm this,” the authors noted.

The most important piece of advice is something that most arthritis patients already know: one treatment doesn’t fix everything.

“CBD should never be used to replace disease-modifying drugs that help prevent permanent joint damage in inflammatory types of arthritis,” according to the Arthritis Foundation. “CBD use should be discussed with your doctor in advance, with follow-up evaluations every three months or so, as would be done for any new treatment.”

One primary reason that a doctor should be involved: CBD could interact negatively with some drugs commonly taken by people with arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation noted, possibly including prednisone, Aleve, Xeljanz, Celebrex and more.

One great tip from the foundation: Keep a symptom and dose diary to track effects. If you’re spending weeks or months between visits with a doctor, you will forget some pain-free and painful days.

If someone has found relief through CBD products, I imagine it can be frustrating to hear skepticism, but the Arthritis Foundation noted that the expense of the products can add up. 

“To avoid wasting money, be completely sure that the product is truly having a positive effect on symptoms,” the guidance noted.

Medical experts consulted by the Arthritis Foundation recommend starting low and going slow with CBD. If relief is inadequate, go up in small increments over several weeks. If you find relief, continue taking that dose twice daily to maintain a stable level of CBD in the blood.

And a great tip when visiting one of those stores on your block where CBD has popped up: “Be aware that marketers and people behind retail counters are not health professionals; they are salespeople,” the foundation guidance notes. “That’s why your doctor is your best source for guidance and monitoring when using an unregulated product.”


Greg Hambrick is senior editor at InsideNoVa. He can be reached at ghambrick@insidenova.com. For more health coverage, visit InsideNoVa.com/health.

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