Cannabis for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a complex, chronic pain disorder that can be debilitating for those who experience it. So much so that basic necessities – such as making breakfast – can feel impossible. Fibromyalgia affects approximately 3% of Canadians which is 900,000 people and women are 4-9 times more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia than men. The causes of fibromyalgia are not well understood and because of its complex nature, it’s challenging to diagnose. Pain is a symptom of many other conditions, often doctors first attempt to rule out a number of other conditions. According to a number of people, it can take 2 years or more before a person gets diagnosed, and even when they do treatment is still challenging. As a result, a number of people are turning to cannabis for fibromyalgia symptoms.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a complex pain disorder that is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain as well as increased sensitivity to pain. It’s also often accompanied by fatigue, as well as sleep, memory, and mood issues. The most common sites of pain include the neck, back, shoulders, arms, and legs, but any body part can be involved.
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Medical treatments for fibromyalgia often include a combination of medications including, pain relief, anti-depressants, muscle relaxants, and sleep aids. Sometimes doctors may also recommend physiotherapy as well as low impact exercise. Though these treatments don’t always work for everyone and there are negative side effects with most medications as well as drug interactions to consider.
Fibromyalgia and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a cell signalling system in the body that regulates a number of systems in the body in order to maintain homeostasis – balance. Learn more about the endocannabinoid system here.
It’s hypothesized that reduced endocannabinoids can lead to disorders such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant disorders. A 1998 study found cannabis, or certain cannabinoids can reduce hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) which suggests it would help to manage symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
Cannabis for Fibromyalgia – Treating Fibromyalgia with Cannabis
A significant number of people use cannabis as a means of managing symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
A 2019 study found cannabis was effective in managing symptoms related to fibromyalgia including pain reduction, improved sleep, and better overall management of mental health symptoms. In this study, approximately half (47%) of the patients saw enough relief from cannabis they reduced or even ceased their pain medication.
Research specifically looking at the impacts of cannabis on fibromyalgia is preliminary, but we can also look at the use of cannabis for its specific symptoms; pain, sleep difficulties, and mood.
Cannabis for Pain
Cannabis has been established for use in managing symptoms associated with chronic pain, including neuropathic pain.
In a 2011 study including 28 individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia, cannabis significantly reduced their experience of pain and stiffness, enhanced relaxation and increased their overall feelings of well-being.
A 2019 study tested the amount of pressure a patient with fibromyalgia could take before it became painful after a single inhalation of cannabis. They used three different cannabis varieties – a high THC/ low CBD strain, a strain that was approximately equal in CBD to THD strain, and one with high CBD/low THC – in comparison to a placebo. They found that THC significantly increased a person’s ability to tolerate pain.
A 2017 study found those who used cannabis for a number of pain disorders, including fibromyalgia, experienced a better overall quality of life as a result of a reduction in pain symptoms. Most participants preferred cannabis over prescription medication and reduce or eliminated prescriptions.
Although opioids are effective in managing pain, they have a long list of problematic side effects and are highly addictive. As a result, people are looking for alternative methods to manage pain. Cannabis appears to be a safer alternative with significantly fewer side effects. Research also supports the use of cannabis for managing addictions particularly opioid addiction – learn more here.
Cannabis for Sleep
Pain is a significant contributor to sleep difficulties associated with a number of disorders including fibromyalgia. Cannabis, and/or CBD, can help regulate sleep and, in many cases, can be an alternative to sleep medications with significant side effects.
A 2010 study compared the use of nabilone, synthetic cannabis, to amitriptyline and found that Nabilone was more effective in improving sleep in patients with fibromyalgia.
A 2011 study found that cannabis shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, both for people regardless of whether or not they normally have trouble with sleep. For those with active difficulty falling asleep, cannabis use resulted in an average of 30 minutes less time falling asleep. And those who don’t have trouble falling asleep cannabis helped them fall asleep even faster, by 15 minutes.
A review of critical studies between 2015 and 2019 suggests that cannabis is a safe and effective method of pain management for those with fibromyalgia but more clinical research is necessary.
It’s important to note that THC can impact how long a person is in REM sleep (the most restful sleep stage), so it’s generally recommended not to consume cannabis with more than 20% THC right before bed. At Miss Envy, we suggest a combination of THC and CBD such as our 3:1 or 1:1 CBD/THC tinctures.
Learn more about cannabis and sleep here.
Cannabis for Mental Health
It’s common for symptoms of anxiety and depression to accompany a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. As we have seen, cannabis tends to increase the quality of life for those with fibromyalgia but we can look closer at mental health.
Cannabis provides anxiolytic effects; though as some people who have experience with cannabis may note, it can also increase anxiety. When it comes to THC and anxiety there appears to be a tipping point that can vary between individuals. So, while THC can decrease symptoms of anxiety it may increase symptoms at a certain dose. On the other hand, research shows that CBD reduces anxiety even at high doses. Read more about cannabis and anxiety here.
Cannabis also helps manage symptoms of depression. A 2006 study found that cannabis impacts symptoms of depression through its influence on serotonin.
A number of people struggling with various mental health issues use cannabis as a method of treatment. Read one of our customers’ stories on how they use cannabis for treating their complex mental health.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis for Fibromyalgia
Research suggests that cannabis can help to manage symptoms associated with fibromyalgia including pain, sleep difficulties and mood issues. A number of people have turned to cannabis as an alternative treatment and have seen success.
Do you have fibromyalgia or another pain disorder? Do you use cannabis to manage your symptoms? We want to hear from you! Let us know your experience with using cannabis in the comments. Or reach out to us on social media to tell your story @miss.envybotanicals