Cannabis and joints: scientific evidence for the alleviation of osteoarthritis pain by cannabinoids

Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2018 Jun:40:104-109. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2018.03.012. Epub 2018 Apr 7.


Cannabis has been used for millennia to treat a multitude of medical conditions including chronic pain. Osteoarthritis (OA) pain is one of the most common types of pain and patients often turn to medical cannabis to manage their symptoms. While the majority of these reports are anecdotal, there is a growing body of scientific evidence which supports the analgesic potential of cannabinoids to treat OA pain. OA pain manifests as a combination of inflammatory, nociceptive, and neuropathic pain, each requiring modality-specific analgesics. The body's innate endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been shown to ameliorate all of these pain subtypes. This review summarizes the components of the ECS and details the latest research pertaining to plant-based and man-made cannabinoids for the treatment of OA pain. Recent pre-clinical evidence supporting a role for the ECS to control OA pain is described as well as current clinical evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoids for treating OA pain in mixed patient populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Analgesics / chemical synthesis
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Arthralgia / drug therapy*
  • Arthralgia / metabolism
  • Arthralgia / pathology
  • Arthralgia / physiopathology
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / chemical synthesis
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids / chemical synthesis
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Joints / drug effects*
  • Joints / metabolism
  • Joints / pathology
  • Joints / physiopathology
  • Medical Marijuana / adverse effects
  • Medical Marijuana / chemical synthesis
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Medical Marijuana
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid