Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Pain is the main characteristic of fibromyalgia. Patients with this disorder live every day with pain that comes and goes, but has been consistent for a long period of time. Scientists don’t fully understand the condition yet, but the main characteristics are body-wide pain and tenderness in the soft tissue like joints, tendons and muscles.
It’s difficult for doctors to diagnose fibromyalgia because there is no test, like an MRI or bloodwork, that can determine if a patient has it. This leads to frustration, as some medical professionals may not take patients’ complaints seriously. If a physician notes that a patient experiences widespread pain that lasts more than three months with no other underlying condition, the doctor may determine a patient has fibromyalgia.
Other symptoms that patients with fibromyalgia experience besides chronic pain include:
It’s estimated that fibromyalgia affects five million Americans, the majority of them being women. Although the disorder is not degenerative or fatal, it can influence every aspect of daily life. Many patients find that it affects their ability to handle everyday tasks or even their work duties. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, and because of a lack of understanding, there aren’t many effective treatments.
While many treatment options come up short, fibromyalgia patients are finding relief in an unlikely source. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one marijuana compound that has been used effectively to treat the pain associated with the condition. As an incredible analgesic, more individuals with the disorder are discovering that this exceptional cannabinoid has the potential to treat many of the aspects associated with fibromyalgia.
It’s unclear what causes fibromyalgia. Triggers like stress or even PTSD sometimes initiate the painful symptoms. However, many patients with the condition experience intense pain with no apparent cause. This has led experts to believe those with the disorder have hypersensitivity to stimuli, which, in normal circumstances, would not be painful. They think repeated stimulation causes the brain to change its response to these stimuli.
Those with fibromyalgia may have an abnormal increase of neurotransmitters in their brain, which are the chemicals that send pain signals. This overactivity causes the brain to develop a “pain memory,” meaning it overreacts to certain signals creating an increased sensation of pain throughout the body.
A new theory suggests the root cause of this may be an endocannabinoid deficiency. The endocannabinoid system is made up of receptors and enzymes located throughout the body. It plays a role in many vital functions, including mood, memory, immunity and pain-sensation. When the body is lacking in its essential natural cannabinoids, pathophysiological syndromes like fibromyalgia can develop.
This is why cannabinoid treatments, like CBD medications, can be effective when other forms of therapy fail.
CBD is just one of many cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant. These cannabinoids have the amazing ability to bind to our body’s endocannabinoid receptors, mimicking our own naturally occurring cannabinoids. CBD binds itself to microglial cells, which reduces the cytokine count and lessens the pain experienced by fibromyalgia patients providing CBD’s analgesic effect.
Another reason CBD works for fibromyalgia patients is because it regulates the endocannabinoid system. When our body has an endocannabinoid deficiency, inexplicable problems develop, like mood swings and unexplained pain. Fibromyalgia patients using CBD as a treatment for pain are allowing the body to receive the cannabinoids it may be lacking, thus reducing or even eliminating pain.
Fibromyalgia patients are finding relief with CBD medications. Unlike marijuana products with the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD medications are non-psychoactive, meaning they don’t get users high. Despite this, if CBD is derived from a medical marijuana plant, the federal government still bans it. Those who wish to receive these medications need to be a part of their state’s medical marijuana program.
The most common treatments used to help fibromyalgia patients come up short. Over-the-counter pain meds just don’t cut it, and more heavy-duty opioids can lead to an unhealthy dependency and even addiction. CBD is not only effective, but it also allows patients to avoid the adverse side effects of opioids, such as addiction.
The forms of CBD medicine most commonly utilized for fibromyalgia patients are:
CBD is used to neutralize the pain associated with fibromyalgia. The most common CBD products used by patients are oils that can be taken under the tongue and thus absorbed into the bloodstream. Doctors often prefer this method since they can easily monitor and control dosages. Topicals are good for external pain because you can apply them directly to the skin.
Although vaporizing high-CBD strains is a quick way to resolve painful symptoms, it’s often frowned upon, as it can create respiratory risks — especially for those with asthma or lung conditions. The effects of ingesting a CBD edible can take a long time to surface, which is why many with fibromyalgia pain forgo this method.
It can be difficult for patients living with fibromyalgia. However, there may be hope and relief in sight through CBD treatments. If you or a loved one has this condition, be sure to contact a marijuana doctor in your state to discuss medical marijuana options, including CBD.
Learn more about Fibromyalgia and what makes medical marijuana an effective treatment for Fibromyalgia’s symptoms.