Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Fibromyalgia causes hard-to-treat pain and tenderness all over the body. Since we don’t know the exact cause of the disorder, we can only treat its symptoms — pain, fatigue, depression, headaches and more.
Medical marijuana researchers want to know if cannabis can work as a treatment for fibromyalgia. Let’s look at some of the studies they’ve conducted on the subject.
Marijuana acts as a potent painkiller for fibromyalgia patients, providing full-body relief. When you medicate with cannabis, it communicates with your endocannabinoid system, which partially controls how you feel pain. It reduces how much pain you feel and lessens the hypersensitivity in your nerves.
Ware et al. wanted to discover if nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, could reduce sleep disturbance in patients with fibromyalgia. Cannabis has shown promise as a sleep aid, and fibromyalgia causes insomnia. So, it was logical for them to conduct research on weed for fibromyalgia-related insomnia.
In a double-blind trial, 29 patients with fibromyalgia-related insomnia took nabilone for two weeks and another sleep medication for two weeks. Ware et al. measured the participants’ quality of sleep using two commonly used scales. They also monitored quality of life, pain, mood and side effects.
While both medications improved the patients’ sleep, nabilone worked better to relieve their insomnia. Nabilone had no negative effects on their quality of life, mood or pain and only caused mild to moderate side effects. The research team concluded that nabilone could work to help fibromyalgia patients sleep and encouraged further studies on the subject.
Skrabek et al. led the first randomized and controlled study to understand how nabilone could relieve pain and improve quality of life for fibromyalgia patients. Since the painkilling options we have can cause harmful adverse effects, they wanted to see if we can use nabilone to supplement these treatments.
A total of 40 patients received either increasingly larger doses of nabilone or a placebo throughout the course of four weeks. They visited the researchers at two weeks and four weeks to answer questions about their pain levels, their tender points and the impact of their fibromyalgia on their lives.
The participants experienced both improved pain levels and mood after taking nabilone. They had much lower scores on pain and anxiety scales after the four weeks than they did at the beginning of the study. Skrabek et al. recommended more research on nabilone as a fibromyalgia treatment.
Fiz et al. compared patients’ cannabis use to their perception of their fibromyalgia symptoms. Also, they wanted to understand how the quality of life of fibromyalgia patients who use cannabis compared to the quality of life for non-users. They believed that investigating these ideas could help us understand how we can use marijuana to treat fibromyalgia.
A total of 56 participants with fibromyalgia took part in the study, including 28 cannabis users and 28 non-users. Both groups filled out questionnaires related to fibromyalgia’s impact on their quality of life, sleep quality and other health issues. The group that used cannabis also answered questions about their marijuana habits and how much they felt it helped their symptoms.
The group of cannabis users reported more symptom relief and a higher quality of life than the group of non-users. Cannabis users experienced a reduction in pain scores after medicating with it for two hours. They also had enhanced moods and higher feelings of well-being.
Feeling curious about medical marijuana’s impact on fibromyalgia now that you know about some top studies on the subject? Our page on fibromyalgia and cannabis medicine can give you an overview of fibromyalgia and your treatment options. For help with your specific situation, a physician trained in medical marijuana can advise you on your medical goals.