Updated on January 21, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
There’s a lot going on in your noggin. A complex interplay of chemical messengers keeps your brain functioning optimally. But for people with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder of central nervous system processing, the normal flow of these chemicals gets disrupted.
Consequently, you can experience bizarre symptoms, such as chronic widespread pain, low energy and sleep problems, so you wake up feeling as tired as when you went to bed. You might also suffer headaches, migraines and bladder issues. If you suspect you’re among the 1-4% of people with fibromyalgia, medical marijuana may help temporarily relieve your symptoms. A study in the Journalof Clinical Medicine of 367 fibromyalgia patients treated at a specialized cannabis clinic found nearly 71% responded to medical marijuana. Their pain intensity dropped from a 9 on a scale of 0 to 10, on avereage, to 5. The study’s authors concluded that “medical cannabis appears to be a safe and effective alternative for treating fibromyalgia symptoms.” Which strains offer the most benefit? If marijuana is legal in your state or fibromyalgia is a qualifying medical condition, feel free to do your own experiment to see what works for you. Although lots more research needs to be done, here’s the latest on the best strains for symptom relief.
Start With an Indica
Most cannabis sold today is a hybrid of two major strains, indica and sativa. If you’re not sure where to begin, ask for a strain that’s indica-dominant. A survey of 95 medical cannabis users in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found a significant majority preferred indica to sativa for managing pain. Indica strains’ therapeutic effects include relaxing the mind and muscles, reducing inflammation, aiding sleep and reducing anxiety. Some people prefer to use them at night because of their sedating effect.
Seek out Strains by Name
Whether you should simplify shopping for medical cannabis by asking for an indica-dominant strain is a matter of debate. Some experts say it’s a better bet to seek out strains by name that are known for their mix of CBD, THC, and terpenoids (plant extracts) that produce the desired therapeutic effect. Suggested strains for pain relief include:
Blackberry Kush: This indica-dominant strain may help with fibromyalgia-induced sleep problems. It’s known for its high THC content of up to 20 percent.
ACDC: This sativa-dominant strain is known for its high CBD-to-THC profile, which makes it an effective pain killer.
Harlequin, a sativa-dominant strain, offers high levels of CBD that make it effective for pain relief, tamping down THC’s side effects.
Cannatonic. This hybrid strain offers a low THC-to-CBD ratio, which some find helpful for pain management.
Supernova. This indica-dominant hybrid may have THC content of up to 25%. Some find it effective for fibromyalgia relief.
Blue Dream. This sativa- and THC-dominant hybrid is known for its pain relieving powers. Because it isn’t overly sedating, it may be appropriate for daytime use.
Golden Goat. If the stress of having a chronic condition is taking an emotional toll, Golden Goat may be for you. It may boost euphoria for a full-body effect.
Mix and Match
For fibromyalgia relief, keep in mind that one size doesn’t fit all. You may need to experiment with different strains and forms of medical marijuana and adjust your dose more than once until you find the right one or combination from your dispensary that helps control pain while minimizing side effects. Be sure to talk with your doctor too, especially if you’re also taking prescription medications for fibromyalgia, such as gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica) or duloxetine (Cymbalta). These prescription drugs can help provide temporary relief by limiting the central nervous system’s release of chemicals that communicate pain, but you want to make sure they will mesh well with your medical marijuana regimen. Are the medical marijuana strains you choose providing symptom relief? To help you assess if your prescribed (or self-prescribed) fibromyalgia treatment is working, complete the patient global impression of change (PGIC). The seven-question survey will help you gauge whether you’re feeling better or worse over time.
About the author
Sandra Gordon is a writer specializing in health and medicine for consumers and physicians. She has written for Everyday Health, Prevention, Healthgrades, Parents, the Cleveland Clinic, NYU Langone Health, Harvard Medical School, Your Teen, WebMD and many more.