Editor's Choice| Volume 47, ISSUE 7, P611-620, July 2022

A Randomized Controlled Trial of Topical Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Thumb Basal Joint Arthritis


      Since the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, hand surgeons have increasingly encountered patients seeking counseling on over-the-counter, topical cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of pain. To this end, we designed a human clinical trial to investigate the therapeutic potential of CBD for the treatment of pain associated with thumb basal joint arthritis.


      Following Food and Drug Administration and institutional approval, a phase 1 skin test was completed with 10 healthy participants monitored for 1 week after twice-daily application of 1 mL of topical CBD (6.2 mg/mL) with shea butter. After no adverse events were identified, we proceeded with a phase 2, double-blinded, randomized controlled trial. Eighteen participants with symptomatic thumb basal joint arthritis were randomized to 2 weeks of twice-daily treatment with CBD (6.2 mg/mL CBD with shea butter) or shea butter alone, followed by a 1-week washout period and then crossover for 2 weeks with the other treatment. Safety data and physical examination measurements were obtained at baseline and after completion of each treatment arm.


      Cannabidiol treatment resulted in improvements from baseline among patient-reported outcome measures, including Visual Analog Scale pain; Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand; and Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation scores, compared to the control arm during the study period. There were similar physical parameters identified with range of motion, grip, and pinch strength.


      In this single-center, randomized controlled trial, topical CBD treatment demonstrated significant improvements in thumb basal joint arthritis-related pain and disability without adverse events.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Therapeutic II.

      Key words

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