Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Fibromyalgia is a medical disorder affecting five million adults in the U.S. alone. This rheumatic condition is characterized by chronic pain throughout the body, but especially in the joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissue.
The flare ups cause the patient debilitating pain, then subside for a time. Often it migrates throughout the body. These flare ups cause many side effects, but sleep problems are a common complication associated with fibromyalgia.
Though there’s no cure for this disorder, many patients are finding relief through medical marijuana. Cannabis medications can target many of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, including issues with sleep. If you have fibromyalgia-related sleep disturbances, explore how medical marijuana could effectively help you.
No one knows for sure what causes fibromyalgia. There are quite a few risk factors, both hereditary and environmental, that seem to make patients more likely to develop the condition. Between 80 and 90% percent of patients are women. Other factors that could contribute to developing the condition include:
Whatever the root-cause, what develops is pain — unobservable from the outside, but felt intensely by the patient. Experts believe fibromyalgia develops because of a hypersensitivity to stimuli. In normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be painful. But for some reason, the condition changes the way the brain responds to stimuli.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that transport pain signals. In fibromyalgia patients, an abnormal increase of these chemicals has been detected. Because of this overactivity of neurotransmitters, it’s believed that the brain’s pain receptors develop a “memory.” Fibromyalgia patients feel pain intensely because the brain processes signals incorrectly.
One of the best ways to reduce fibromyalgia flare ups is getting lots of rest, including a good night’s sleep. However, this is a catch-22. Patients with the disorder find it difficult to sleep because of the pain. But without sleep, patients are more at risk for pain flare ups.
Common medications used to help fibromyalgia patients sleep are antidepressants such as Cymbalta. When working effectively, these medications allow patients to get the rest they need. But they’re sometimes accompanied by severe side effects. These include hyperactivity, hostility, panic attacks and even thoughts of suicide. The success rate for treating fibromyalgia-related sleep issues with this drug is low — 60% of users said it didn’t work.
Medical marijuana isn’t a cure for fibromyalgia. However, it does address many of the symptoms associated with the condition, like pain and insomnia, so patients can live a more normal life. The cannabinoids found in marijuana, like THC and CBD, are known to react with the body’s endocannabinoid system, reducing pain and increasing sleepiness.
When choosing a medical marijuana product for fibromyalgia-related sleep issues, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Indica dominant strains are known as the “sleepy time” weed. These give a peaceful feeling of drowsiness, allowing patients to drift into a deep sleep. Since most fibromyalgia patient’s insomnia is due to pain, weed has the added benefit of pain fighting properties. You should vape or smoke the product for the fastest results.
Strains often used for sleep issues and insomnia are:
You should always talk to a marijuana doctor or dispensary worker for specific strain recommendations. They can assess your symptoms and walk you through the system of trial and error to find the right products for you.