Can medical cannabis or CBD treat fibromyalgia?
Cannabis and CBD for fibromyalgia
In many ways, the disorder fibromyalgia and the plant, cannabis sativa are similar. Like fibromyalgia, cannabis has been around for centuries. In the same way that the medical benefits of cannabis are being researched and our understanding is evolving, we still have much to learn about fibromyalgia and treatments.
While many people are sceptical of medicinal cannabis, there are still those who question the legitimacy of fibromyalgia as a disorder. It would seem that fibromyalgia and cannabis are a disorder and medicine cut from the same cloth.
In this article, you’ll learn about fibromyalgia, treatments for fibromyalgia and how medical cannabis is (and isn’t) helping patients with this condition.
A brief and important history of fibromyalgia
nderstanding of the disease has transformed over time and is still evolving.
As evident through its history, fibromyalgia and treatments for this disorder have been evolving since first discovered. While science and medicine continue to improve drastically, in many ways, fibromyalgia still remains a mystery.
Medically, “fibro” means connective tissue and “itis” means inflammation. fibromyalgia: “fibro” meaning connective tissues, “my” meaning muscle, and “algia” meaning pain
Fibromyalgia and the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a cell signalling system (think of it like a traffic controller) in your body regulating numerous bodily functions helping you remain balanced. Today, research has linked the ECS to a variety of bodily functions and emotions.
The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids – molecules that send messages; and cannabinoid receptors – the receiver of the messages. One of these types of receptors, the CB1 receptors, are found in your central nervous system. The central nervous system is responsible for regulating pain.
Fibromyalgia and Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED)
CED is a theory that proposes that lower endocannabinoid levels in one’s body can lead to conditions like IBS, fibromyalgia and other treatment-resistant disorders.
In 1998 research showed that endocannabinoids could reduce hyperalgesia (an increased sensitivity to pain). This finding has led researchers to believe that cannabis, or specific cannabinoids in cannabis, can help treat certain symptoms of fibromyalgia. What has been proven time and again, is that cannabinoid therapy can help the endocannabinoid system operate more smoothly. CBD helps to stimulate the release of endocannabinoids and the binding of other molecules within your system.
Hopefully, you now see the link between cannabis and fibromyalgia from a scientific and treatment perspective. It’s important to remember that research on cannabis and CED is relatively new and far more research, particularly longitudinal studies, need to be completed.
What are the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder which doctors believe inhibits the way that your brain and spinal cord process pain signals from nerves. Because of this, it’s believed that an individual’s pain receptors develop a “memory” of the pain and become more sensitive to that pain in the future.
Fibromyalgia (fibro) is more common in women than men and those who have fibro often have other diagnoses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), anxiety and depression.
The pain that results from fibromyalgia can be different for each individual. Individuals with fibromyalgia often experience pain that is widespread throughout the body and can dissipate or persist for long periods of time.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia are:
- Widespread pain
- Extreme fatigue (exhaustion)
- Poor sleep
- Problems with concentration and memory (aka fibro fog)
- Irritable bowel syndrome – IBS
- Anxiety and depression
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia is quite a difficult condition to diagnose because of the complexities of how it presents in individuals. Doctors use a process of elimination approach and multiple surveys to tests to come to a diagnosis of fibro.
You may go through ultrasounds, MRIs, x-rays and blood tests to check for underlying factors and to rule out other medical conditions. Quite often doctors will aim to rule out rheumatic diseases, mental health problems and neurological disorders.
If other things can be ruled out, doctors may use pain and anxiety surveys and a fibromyalgia impact questionnaire to assess your condition.
Can cannabis treat fibromyalgia?
n many cases, yes. When treating fibromyalgia a doctor doesn’t directly treat fibro, they treat the symptoms of fibro, including: pain, sleep disruption and anxiety and depression.
A fibro-cannabis study from 2018 showed that all of the participants found improvement in symptoms from cannabis use and more than half ceased taking other medications. More broadly, research shows that cannabis can benefit patients who experience chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Can CBD or CBD oil treat fibromyalgia?
Yes, CBD oil can be used in the treatment of fibromyalgia. There are many studies showing CBD’s benefits on fibro symptoms. With regard to fibromyalgia symptoms, CBD is known to have properties such as:
- Mild pain relief
- Muscle relaxant
- Anxiety reduction
- Helps insomnia
Can THC help treat Fibromyalgia?
Yes, THC is also often used effectively in the treatment of fibromyalgia. THC is often used in cannabinoid-based pain treatment. With regard to fibromyalgia symptoms, THC is known to have properties such as:
- Pain relief / lower muscle tension
- Mild anti-inflammatory
- Sleep improvement
Cannabis for the treatment of specific fibromyalgia symptoms
Can cannabis help with Fibromyalgia pain?
When researching cannabis to treat fibromyalgia, pain is the top symptom fibro suffers want relief from. Chronic pain is one of the most approved conditions for which medical cannabis is approved for in Australia. There have been quite a few studies on chronic pain in adults and cannabis but again, very few that relate specifically to fibro.