Thought to be a mental disorder in the early 1800s, fibromyalgia is a chronic condition categorized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and extreme sensitivity to pressure. Although the root cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, it is known that interruptions in sensory pathways of the brain, spinal cord and nerves cause patients to suffer from abnormal, intensified pain sensations.
The first scientific research studying fibromyalgia was conducted in 1981, but the first medication designed to manage the debilitating symptoms was not approved by the FDA until 2007. While usually less than 40 percent of those suffering from fibromyalgia experience symptom relief from pharmaceutical medications, medical cannabis is often a successful therapy option to an otherwise resistant condition.
Fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, fatigue, sleep deprivation, and mood instability or depression, can be effectively treated with the use of medical cannabis because the organic chemical compounds that make up the plant, called cannabinoids, mimic the body’s own naturally produced endocannabinoids. The cannabinoids in cannabis bind to the same endocannabinoid receptors that are responsible for regulating many body systems including pain, appetite, mood and memory.
Although the increase in the number of states legalizing the use of medical cannabis may seem new to some, it is actually history repeating itself. Medical cannabis tinctures were available for over the counter purchase in drugstores throughout the United States until the 1930s. Phillip Leveque, the Oregon-based doctor known for being a pioneer of medical marijuana activism, was alive when cannabis tinctures could be found on store shelves, and he was also one of the first doctors to recommend medical cannabis once it was legalized in 1998. Leveque reported that he was in care of approximately 100 patients suffering from fibromyalgia, at any given time, and they all found medical cannabis to be a very effective treatment.
Many patient testimonies align with what experts and researchers have revealed about the symptom relief that results from the use of medical cannabis. Multiple cannabinoids are known for alleviating symptoms of fibromyalgia. For example, THC can significantly reduce or even eliminate pain and nausea while helping to improve mood, and CBN is a powerful sleep aid. While single cannabinoid therapy, like the use of just THC or just CBN, will be effective, the efficacy of medical cannabis increases dramatically when multiple cannabinoids are able to work together in a process known as the entourage effect. An example of this is revealed in the results of a recent online survey of fibromyalgia patients, conducted by The National Pain Foundation. Sixty-two percent of participants found medical cannabis to be “very effective” in the treatment of multiple symptoms.
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A study conducted in Spain and published in 2011 revealed that medical cannabis can provide fibromyalgia sufferers with both symptom relief and better quality of life. After using medical cannabis, participants reported a significant reduction in pain and stiffness as well as enhancement of relaxation, and an increase in sleeping abilities. Patients also noted feeling an improved sense of well-being after the introducing the use of medical cannabis therapies.
While clinical studies focusing exclusively on fibromyalgia may be limited, clinical trials focusing on pain in general are rapidly growing in number around the world. In a double-blind study conducted at the University of California at Davis Analgesic Research Center and published in the Journal of Pain, Dr. Barth Wilsey is quoted stating, “[w]e conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study evaluating the analgesic efficacy of vaporized cannabis in subjects, the majority of whom were experiencing neuropathic pain despite traditional treatment.” Thirty-nine patients with central and peripheral neuropathic pain participated in the study and “[m]ixed effects regression models demonstrated an analgesic response to vaporized cannabis.”
Fibromyalgia Patients Rate Marijuana Significantly More Effective Than FDA-Approved Drugs.
Cannabis Use in Patients with Fibromyalgia: Effect on Symptoms Relief and Health-Related Quality of Life.
Association of herbal cannabis use with negative psychosocial parameters in patients with fibromyalgia.
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?
While research has shown cannabis to be effective in providing palliative and therapeutic effects for some patients, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before starting any new treatment utilizing medical cannabis or discontinuing an existing treatment. The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.