Treating fibromyalgia with medical marijuana
For the millions of American’s suffering with the condition, fibromyalgia and its often severe symptoms affect their quality of life every single day. The condition can make it difficult to complete basic tasks, maintain relationships, and hold a job. Even more unfortunate, there is no cure for the disorder, and available treatments often fall short of providing the relief these patients need. This is why medical marijuana has been considered as a possible treatment for fibromyalgia. Understanding the condition, how it is typically treated, and how cannabis might help, will provide greater insight on how medical marijuana can make a difference from fibromyalgia patients.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is an often misunderstood medical condition that causes chronic pain throughout
the body along with other related symptoms. Those with the condition often experience pain, tingling, and tenderness with no obvious cause. They can also experience mental and gastrointestinal symptoms. Many individuals with the condition require complex treatment plans, and some are unresponsive to current medical treatments. Fibromyalgia occurs more commonly in women and in those who have had certain infections, injuries, or emotional trauma. There may also be a genetic component to the condition, as it is more likely in families where one or more members have fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, the exact cause of fibromyalgia has yet to be determined.
Individuals with fibromyalgia may experience a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Pain and/or tenderness throughout the body
- Trouble sleeping or irregular sleep patterns
- Irritable bowels and other gastrointestinal issues
- Irregular appetite
- Temperature sensitivity
- Morning stiffness
- Joint stiffness
- Painful menstrual periods
- Tingling feelings, especially in hands or feet
- Cognitive and memory issues
- Mood changes
- Depression and anxiety
- Vision problems
It is estimated by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases that more than five million Americans are affected by fibromyalgia, making the disorder a significant one in the United States. Many individuals with the condition do not experience the relief they need from treatments to conduct normal activities, making it difficult to maintain a role in the workforce and affecting personal relationships. Current Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is known for being difficult to treat, and there is currently no cure for the condition. An estimated 35 to 40 percent of people with fibromyalgia do not find relief from conventional medications and treatments. Even when treatment is possible, it requires a multipronged approach to provide symptom relief. Many patients require multiple medications along with specialized diets, exercise plans, and other lifestyle changes. Some common medication-based treatments include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, fibromyalgia medications, opioid painkillers, or extremely expensive growth hormones. These medications each address separate symptoms, requiring the use of more than one prescription for most patients. Additional medications to address nausea, insomnia, and other symptoms of fibromyalgia may also be needed depending on the patient and their unique symptoms.
While many find relief with these medications, for those whose fibromyalgia is not responsive treatment current medication fall short. Other therapies to address muscle weakness, aid in pain management, and improve mental state are often recommended as part of a fibromyalgia treatment plan to tackle symptoms that are not corrected with traditional medication. This can range from working with a physical therapist to acupuncture to restrictive diets and costly supplements. Reduced stress and improved sleep may also improve fibromyalgia symptoms. Even with these options, many patients still have been unable to find relief. This is what lead some patients and medical practitioners to suggest that fibromyalgia and medical cannabis might make sense together. As reported by CNN, some patients have found medical marijuana to provide greater relief from fibromyalgia symptoms than a combination of other therapies. Medical Marijuana for Fibromyalgia
One of the main reasons that medical marijuana was first considered for fibromyalgia is its known pain-relieving qualities, but marijuana is also able to treat several of the condition’s other symptoms. Medical cannabis can be prescribed to treat a variety of symptoms and conditions, including nausea, muscle spasms, appetite issues, Crohn’s disease and colitis, and several other conditions, all of which can occur with fibromyalgia. This makes the primary benefit of using marijuana as a fibromyalgia treatment its ability to treat multiple symptoms that previously required the use of multiple medications. Fibromyalgia patients may see a benefit in pain relief, nausea and appetite, bowel issues, mental symptoms and mood issues, and insomnia and sleep issues. This is a huge benefit for many patients who are either unable to find relief or who are dealing with a variety of medications to treat their symptoms.
Although more research is needed to determine how medical marijuana may be used to treat or even cure fibromyalgia, several research studies have shown promising results when cannabis was used to treat fibromyalgia patients. As a fibromyalgia treatment marijuana was shown to address multiple symptoms, including fibromyalgia pain, muscle and joint stiffness, overall mood, and ability to relax. Some studies and research related to using marijuana to treat fibromyalgia have shown positive results.
- In one study where symptoms and mood were tracked by individuals with fibromyalgia, a statistically significant reduction in pain and stiffness and an improvement in relaxation and feelings of well-being were reported by the portion of the group that used cannabis as a treatment.
- Another study from Canada, has shown that a fibromyalgia marijuana treatment improved sleep for patients, which is often one of the most difficult symptoms to overcome. Doctors there have begun prescribing it to patients as a viable treatment.
Other medical research has been geared at the use of medical cannabis and synthetic marijuana to treat chronic conditions like fibromyalgia. In the United States, synthetic marijuana medications have been tested extensively and approved for use in treating certain conditions for cancer patients. Treating Fibromyalgia with Medical Marijuana
When treating fibromyalgia cannabis can be used a variety of ways. The studies mentioned above and additional research on marijuana’s medicinal properties have shown that two compounds in cannabis seem to be the most beneficial. This includes THC and CBD, which are cannabinoids. These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which interacts with multiple other systems in the body. For certain medical conditions, a high concentration of either THC or CBD is recommended. Fibromyalgia patients appear to benefit from both compounds, so treatment cannabis strains should contain both. This is because the various symptoms of fibromyalgia are impacted by one or the other. THC assists with certain issues, including sleeping issues and improved mood, while CBD assists with others like pain and spasms. Studies have also looked at the way marijuana is taken when treating fibromyalgia and other similar conditions. Studies have been done using patients who smoked or inhaled marijuana as well as those who took cannabis orally, and both methods were shown to provide similar symptom improvement. Although there are pros and cons to every method of cannabis ingestion, inhaling is generally considered the most effective because it provides relief much faster than other methods. Recent testing has turned to other delivery methods, including a CBD patch which is being looked at for the treatment of fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain. CBD is known for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory abilities, and the patch may be a better way to absorb key compounds and control dosing while providing relief directly to the area.
Why are People Turning to Marijuana to Treat Fibromyalgia Pain?
Although additional research is needed to identify how medical marijuana may affect fibromyalgia patients, many have already begun using cannabis to treat their symptoms. Some patients report that marijuana has finally provided them the relief they need after traditional medicines failed them. According to these patients, the link between fibromyalgia and weed is a simple one – it works. This is especially important to individuals who have not found relief for some of the most severe symptoms of fibromyalgia. Additionally, the medications often prescribed to treat fibromyalgia symptoms can have severe side effects. Antidepressant medications can cause nausea, weight gain, sexual problems, insomnia, and more. This can actually worsen some of the symptoms of the disease. Addiction is also a problem, especially in cases where the pain is severe enough for opioid pain medications, which have been shown to be highly addictive. Marijuana provides a solution for fibromyalgia symptoms without the harsh side effects. Fibromyalgia is a condition that can be difficult to treat because of the wide array of symptoms it causes. Traditional treatments fall short of providing relief, and a large percentage of patients do not respond to these therapies. Studies using medical marijuana to treat fibromyalgia symptoms have shown promising results, improving pain levels, stiffness, mood, and sleep quality for some patients, including those who were dissatisfied with other medical options. While more research is needed to fully understand how cannabis and fibromyalgia interact, many patients are making the switch and reporting symptom improvements.