Is Cannabis the Holy Grail for Fibromyalgia Pain?

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By Emily Robertson

Studies show cannabis is more effective at relieving pain than opioids or Cymbalta.

Fibromyalgia is a highly misunderstood and underfunded disorder that affects mostly women (only 10% of diagnosed patients are men). We are nowhere near finding a cure and symptoms are difficult to treat. These symptoms include: widespread muscle pain and stiffness, fatigue, sleep problems, brain fog, and depression/anxiety; ranging from moderate to severe. It typically co-exists with other painful conditions, including: IBS, migraines, interstitial cystitis, and temporomandibular joint disorders.

Young Woman Clutching her neck in pain

Fibromyalgia patients experience widespread pain that can’t be explained by any other disease or disorder. Image Credit: PathDoc 

For people who suffer with fibromyalgia, it is an all-consuming and potentially disabling condition. At this point, research has yet to uncover the trigger for the condition, although it is likely connected to a disruption in the central nervous system and an endocannabinoid deficiency.  This would explain why cannabis has had success in treatment.  Many experts believe that the pain is coming from misdirected nerve firing.

Empty Bed at Night with Heating Pad on it

Image Credit: Shutterstock

In aggregate studies of patients, using initial intake interviews, it is likely that fibromyalgia has both a genetic component and an environmental trigger.  These can include, but are not limited to: giving birth, operation trauma, severe injury, systemic infection, and severe emotional stresses (abuse or PTSD).

Fibromyalgia Word Cloud

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Right now, the course of treatment that has proven to be most effective is a combination of lifestyle changes (in terms of diet and exercise), medication, and counseling.

The three pharmaceuticals that are typically prescribed to manage fibromyalgia are:  Cymbalta (Duloxetine), Savella (Milnacipran), and Lyrica (Pregabalin). While these have shown some efficacy in managing symptoms, more than 50% of patients report no relief. In addition, typical painkillers are not effective on fibromyalgia pain due to reduced binding ability of the opiate receptor in the brain of those suffering from fibromyalgia.

Image Credit: FGC

Cannabis and Fibromyalgia

Cannabis is known to be an effective pain killer and works through different receptors than opioids.  A surveyconducted by the National Pain Foundation found that 62% of participants who took cannabis to treat their fibromyalgia found it ‘very effective’ in alleviating symptoms. This is compared to a mere 8-10% who claimed that the pharmaceutical prescription counterparts were ‘very effective’; and a dramatic contrast from the 60% of patients who said their prescriptions are totally ineffective.

Cannabis bud versus pills on white background

Image Credit: El Flapas

The method of cannabis consumption is important for fibromyalgia patients. Start with a vape in the morning to get out of bed, followed by edibles or oil. The reason for this is that vaping will bring immediate and short acting relief while you are waiting for the oil/edible is kicking in. The latter will bring relief for 4 to 6 hours. Some patients also find that edibles before bed are effective in allowing a good night’s sleep. Take your medicine about 45 minutes before you hit the hay.

Throughout the day, micro-dosing for breakthrough pain can be an effective way to hold the pain back while still avoiding the feeling of being “high.”

Cookies beside cannabis leaf and edibles sign

Image Credit: Shutterstock

A year and a half ago, Cannabis Science also developed a cannabis patch that releases cannabis over a prolonged period of time in order to deliver effective dosage for several hours.

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