How Cannabis Can Help Athlete's Joint Pain
More and more athletes - including those on the professional front - are choosing CBD on a regular basis over conventional medications to successfully treat their chronic pain
CBD has become an attractive option for many who seek its effects.

The amount of physical stress that performance athletes place on their bodies is immense. Serious runners, triathletes, swimmers, or those who play team sports at a high level train hard, and while their physique and performance may reflect such dedicated training, they're typically more vulnerable to suffering injury as a result. Even those of us who are happy just going to the gym a couple of times a week aren’t immune to injuries.

Considering how much pressure and strain that is put on the muscles and joints, it's no wonder that athletes commonly endure chronic pain, whether due to acute or chronic injury.

Not only can such severe pain interfere with their performance, but it can cause debilitating discomfort in their everyday lives. In an effort to obtain pain relief, athletes typically turn to pharmaceutical medications in the form of NSAIDs (non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs) and opioids like oxycodone.

Unfortunately, such medications are fraught with potential side effects, as well as the potential for dependence - something once used for treatment could turn into an unhealthy addiction.  

Thankfully, there are safer and more natural products that can be used that may offer similar pain-alleviating effects of traditional painkillers and prescription drugs to treat issues like arthritis in the joints, including medical marijuana products like CBD.

In fact, more and more athletes - including those on the professional front - are choosing to use CBD on a regular basis over conventional medications to successfully treat their chronic pain.

Is CBD right for you to treat your joint pain? Read on to find out more about the cannabis plant and its place in the world of medicine.

What is CBD?

The cannabinoids in the marijuana plant have a number of healing properties that can rival the effects of traditional medications for arthritis and other joint issues, and reducing chronic pain is one of them.

One cannabinoid in particular - CBD - is especially interesting because it alleviates certain ailments without the mind-altering effects that cannabis has been known for.

CBD - or cannabidiol - is a naturally-occurring, non-psychoactive cannabinoid in the marijuana plant. While marijuana may have been used for thousands of years for its pain-relieving properties and to reduce inflammation, only recently has its place in the world of medicine been strengthened, thanks to continued scientific studies.

While closely related to another abundant cannabinoid in the plant - THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - CBD does not cause users to feel "high" as a result of taking it. That's because both CBD and THC act slightly differently with various receptors in the brain and body. Depending on the cannabis strains you choose, you can either find an equal THC/CBD balance, or find products with higher CBD or THC levels.  

Because CBD can alleviate ailments like arthritis without inducing any mind-altering effects, it has become an attractive option for many who seek its effects, including athletes suffering from joint pain.

How Does CBD Impact the Perception of Pain?

CBD-heavy strains have been scientifically shown to relieve joint pain as a result of injury or arthritis. While it can be consumed in many ways to help users achieved the desired effects, those suffering from targeted often use topical CBD ointments and creams to apply to the areas affected.

Studies have shown that topical CBD application can significantly alleviate chronic pain. For instance, a 2016 study found that transdermal CBD gel application significantly reduced swelling of the joints from arthritis among study participants without any noticeable side effects. 

What About THC?

THC has also been shown to have positive effects on pain relief, but it comes with mind-altering effects. There could be any number of reasons for pain to ensue, and different marijuana products might be better suited for certain types of pain than others.

Both CBD and THC work by influencing CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the body. This system is tasked with regulating balance in the body. And when the body is not in proper balance, any number of issues can develop, including pain.  

CBD and THC both have anti-inflammatory properties, but how they interact with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system differ slightly.

Inflammatory pain that occurs as a result of tissue damage is typically contained to certain areas of the body. These damaged tissues - which can be caused by injury, arthritis, or other causes - trigger inflammatory and immune cells to spring into action and repair the damage. This type of pain can be effectively treated with CBD topicals.   

High THC levels, on the other hand, may be better suited for central and neuropathic pain. Many people experience neuropathic pain, which becomes even more common with age. And while pharmaceutical medication may help, THC can be a viable alternative.

THC can alter the perception of pain by alleviating anxiety and stress, in addition to combating inflammation. THC binds to CB1 receptors and therefore affects their function. These receptors are mainly located on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and any effect on them can influence central and neuropathic pain. For athletes whose coaches advise them to “play through the pain”, THC’s relaxing effects may help them do just that.

Both blocking the inflammatory process or weakening the effects of pain signals as they travel to the brain can help numb the sensation of pain.  Medical marijuana can be an effective natural remedy to target these processes to achieve pain relief.

Depending on the exact symptoms being experienced, athletes can choose which option - either THC or CBD - is best suited for them.

Additional Benefits of CBD

CBD certainly has its place in treating pain associated with injury or chronic issues resulting from the extreme physical strain that athletes tend to be placed under. Rather than using NSAIDs and opioids - each of which can cause other health issues and even addiction - athletes can include CBD into their daily regimen to alleviate their pain.

In addition to the ability for CBD to relieve pain, it also comes with a slew of other benefits that both athletes and the general public can take advantage of, including the following:

How to Take CBD

While it may be assumed that cannabis products must be smoked, there are actually a number of different modes of consumption, particularly when it comes to CBD. Here are some other ways for athletes to use CBD to deal with their pain:

  • Capsules
  • Tablets
  • Tinctures
  • Vapes
  • Edibles
  • Beverages
  • Topical creams

Depending on the exact symptoms that athletes are experiencing or their comfort level, there are various CBD products available to suit their needs.  

Final Thoughts

Athletes have an arsenal of products that they use to achieve optimal performance and alleviate any pain associated with injuries or physical issues stemming from their sport. But perhaps adding CBD to the mix can provide them with a natural, effective means of dealing with inflammation and pain without having to resort to the use of NSAIDs, opioids and other pain relievers to do the job.

And with science backing the notion that CBD is highly effective at reducing aches and pains - and many athletes already touting its effects - those who are new to the world of medical marijuana may be more open to adopting CBD as part of their daily health and wellness regimen. The effects of cannabis extend far beyond the recreational usage many think of when they hear the word “marijuana.”