CBD Use and Musculoskeletal Pain

By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS, FAAOMPT

There has been a lot of buzz around the use of cannabidiol (CBD) lately, as more states have made CBD legal for use both with and without medical prescription. I have many patients that ask me about the use of CBD for their aches and pains, and have even more that tell me that they already use it and find relief with it. Just yesterday, a patient came in and reported that her sleep, which used to be interrupted 3-4 times per night because of hip pain, has significantly improved since she started using oral CBD before bed. Based on these stories, I wanted to learn more about the research behind CBD use when it comes to musculoskeletal pain, and I was pointed to a great research review titled, “Cannabinoids in the Management of Musculoskeletal Pain: A Critical Review of the Evidence”.(1) I’ll share with you what the research says, but I do want to remind you that you should always consult with your primary care physician when considering taking any new medication.

The review by Madden et al looked at 33 studies looking at the use of cannabinoids, including CBD (the form that does not have THC in it) as well as cannabis (which does have THC, a psychoactive property, in it), in regards to treating orthopedic pain.(1) This included pain from arthritis, post-operative pain, back pain, and trauma-related pain.(1) Overall, the quality of these studies was not very high, as they were mostly observational and did not control for other variables. Essentially, it is best to take this information with a grain of salt, and there is a lot of room for research to dive further into this topic in order to gather more quality information on its effectiveness. However, the researchers reported that 22 of the 33 studies (67%) indicated that cannabinoids were effective in treating musculoskeletal conditions.(1) Furthermore, these studies were looking more at the use of cannabis, with limited information on how CBD can be effective as a treatment.

Ultimately, when asking the question, “Is CBD something that can help with my musculoskeletal pain?”, the answer is, “Maybe”. There is currently not enough information to make an evidence-based recommendation regarding the use of CBD, but you should certainly discuss this with your primary care physician if you are considering the use of it either orally or topically. Hopefully, as the use of CBD becomes more popularized across the nation as an alternative to other medications, further research using higher-quality standards can be performed so that clinicians can make better evidence-informed recommendations.

1. Madden K, van der Hoek N, et al. Cannabinoids in the Management of Musculoskeletal Pain: A Critical Review of the Evidence. JBJS Review. 2018:6(5):e7.