Can CBD /Marijuana Help with Musculoskeletal Pain?

With marijuana widely legalized across the US, and completely legalized in Canada, may people are considering using cannabis (for a variety of reasons) for the first time. With the prohibition coming to an end, people who didn't have access, or were fearful of marijuana are reconsidering. This is especially true when it comes to medical marijuana and "CBD" or CBD oil.

Did you know? Marijuana has been used medicinally in Eastern medicine for almost 5,000 years.

Instead of discussing the medicinal properties and benefits of marijuana as a whole, we're going to zero-in on CBD.

Interested in marijuana and pain? Read about the pros and cons of medical marijuana to treat pain.

What is CBD?

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For those that don't know, CBD is one of the active, natural compounds found in marijuana. While marijuana refers to the dried cannabis flower you picture as "weed" or "pot", CBD is a specific cannabinoid (chemical compound) found in marijuana that has many proven health benefits.

Did you know? Cannabis (marijuana) has an estimated 85+ different types of cannabinoids in it. CBD is just one of these compounds, which can be extracted and ingested.

CBD, which is extracted from cannabis, contains none of the psychoactive elements typically associated with marijuana. In other words, if you use just CBD (typically CBD oil) to treat your pain, arthritis, musculoskeletal issues, or other health needs, you won't feel 'high'. As a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, using CBD means you can reap some health benefits without the euphoric, giggly, sometimes anxious, feelings associated with taking marijuana (caused by THC).

According to the World Health Organization, "Strains of cannabis containing high levels of CBD generally make patients feel less high, since CBD acts as an antagonist to the psychoactive effect of THC. " If you don't want to feel high, find a strain of cannabis with very low (or no) THC and high CBC.

Why CBD? Health Benefits & More.

CBD is linked to pain relief, relieving symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia, and spinal injury,  cutting down inflammation, and aiding in the treatment of epilepsy by drastically reducing seizures. In addition, CBD comes with fewer side-effects, ingredients, and addictive properties than prescribed, narcotic pain medication (like opioids).

For those of you dealing with chronic back pain, joint pain, osteoarthritis, or other painful musculoskeletal conditions, CBD contains many helpful, therapeutic properties.

Here's what CBD helps to treat that may relate to your condition:

Do you suffer from back pain? Read all about using marijuana to effectively treat spine conditions and painful flare-ups.  

In addition, studies (some preliminary) have shown that CBD helps:

  • Combat addiction- CBD and marijuana have been included in several studies targeting addiction and reduction in opioid pain medication use. There is early evidence that highlights CBD's potential to aid in cannabis and tobacco addiction, as well as lowering required doses of opioids to effectively manage pain.  

In a recent study of medical cannabis, patients living with fibromyalgia, arthritis and neuropathic pain reported experiencing "a lot or almost complete overall pain relief ". In addition, "75% of opioid-dependent medical cannabis users reported experiencing 'a lot or almost complete overall relief'  from opioid dependency."

  • Reduce seizures (even in those with severe epilepsy). Several studies have shown that in some childhood forms of epilepsy, like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don't respond to antiseizure medications, CBD has been very effective. As a result, the FDA has approved cannabidiol (CBD) for epileptic patients 2 years of age and older.

  • Reduce other medical symptoms and fight diseases like: diabetes, cancer (possible antitumor effect), cardiovascular disease, bone disease, etc. Click here to read about other potential health benefits of CBD.

Why NOT CBD?

With CBD and marijuana emerging as a new, legal means to treat medical ailments and disease, further evidence and studies are required to prove total effectiveness. With this being said, studies and preliminary research (as shown above) signal that CBD can be very helpful.

With CBD being a relatively new treatment option, there are the following downsides (and CBD side effects) to consider:

  • Less regulated/ controlled: There aren't a lot of controls in place when it comes to CBD as medicine. Since it is largely unregulated and is for the most part considered a "health supplement" (not a medication) by the FDA, the dose, quality, or safety standards are not guaranteed (like in a prescribed medication).

  • Not covered by insurance: With the exception of a handful of CBD medications approved by the FDA, most CBD will not be covered by insurance. Depending on where you live, coverage can vary along with cost.

  • Some side-effects: Although the side-effects are generally fewer and less severe, some CBD users report feeling nauseous, tired, and irritable. In addition, CBD can naturally interact with certain medications like blood thinners.  

  • Stigma? Although debatable, some may argue that marijuana (including CBD) has a bit of a bad rap. The same can be said for prescription pain medication, but with marijuana being illegal or controlled in certain states, it still has a bit of an "outlaw" factor.

Where Can I Get CBD?

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Thanks for asking! This is a great question and the answer really depends on where you live. If you're located in America, different states have different regulations around marijuana and CBD. If you're living in another country, like Canada, getting CBD can be as simple as walking to the neighbourhood store.

In the US, cannabis laws differ from state to state. Some states limit the amount of THC (the psychoactive element) one can consume and only permit CBD use. Other states, like Texas are highly regulated and only permit CBD use in select epilepsy patients.Check out this map with the current regulations surrounding CBD and marijuana use in your state.

With CBD still being a bit of an "underground" or "black market" item, we recommend doing some local research and seeing what's available (and legal) in your area.

How to Take CBD?

CBD comes in many forms and administration methods. Often, you will hear of "CBD oil" which is a common form. The administration methods of CBD include: oral, sublingual, inhalation, topical, and less commonly, suppository. Each administration method affects how your body will react to the dose, how long it takes to take effect, and how long the effects will last.

Here are the 5 different methods of ingestion:

  1. Oral- This means you take CBD in the form of a capsule or edible. This is the most common form of administration. This method also has the lowest bioavailability (the amount that gets absorbed by the body and can have an active effect). This means of all the ingestion methods, taking CBD orally has the least effect. The onset is about 30-90 minutes, lasting up to 6-7 hours.

  2. Sublingual (dissolves under the tongue)- This method gets into your bloodstream faster than when taken orally (about 20 minutes). It also is absorbed by your body better, with greater bioavailability. This means, it takes less CBD to feel an effect.

  3. Inhalation- CBD when smoked or vaped has the fastest onset time. It is also quite effective at being absorbed by your body, but is effective for the shortest duration.

  4. Topical- Sprays, patches, lotions, etc., are a localized form of CBD that can be used to treat arthritis, pain and inflammation in a specific area of your body. When applied, the CBD slowly absorbs into your body, taking up to 90 minutes. Like oral ingestion, bioavailability is low.

  5. Suppository- This is the least common method of ingestion. It is generally reserved for patients who are very sick, have nausea, and require immediate relief. When taken anally or vaginally, the highest amount of CBD is absorbed. This method has the highest availability, a short onset, and lasts the longest, thus making it beneficial for certain patient groups.


CBD oil for pain management is something that you and your care team should consider. With many proven health benefits and limited side-effects, CBD is a natural treatment that may offer you some much-needed relief.

Having joint, back, ACL or shoulder surgery? Experiencing back pain? We can help. Sign up for PeerWell's daily PreHab to get back you your healthy, pain-free self.

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Hi, I'm Grace. I write and research about hip and knee replacements, PreHab before orthopedic surgery & ReHab. Content advised or co-authored with physicians (MD) and orthopedic surgeons (OS).

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