Can Marijuana Help Fibromyalgia?
Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, memory and concentration problems (the “fibro-fog”), and sleep problems like insomnia and constant tiredness.
This debilitating disease can make simple everyday tasks like cooking or tying shoelaces exhausting and sometimes near impossible. Aside from the obvious downside of constant pain, this can be frustrating for sufferers who may otherwise look “healthy.”
Learn more about the causes of and treatments for fibromyalgia, and how cannabis might be able to ease the symptoms of this painful autoimmune disease.
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What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Until recently, doctors didn’t really have an explanation as to what may cause a condition like fibromyalgia. Both physical and mental explanations were given, and it was noted that fibromyalgia seemed to arise after a particularly difficult physical and/or emotional experience.
The pain appears to emanate from processes in the central nervous syndrome (CNS), but we now have a potential explanation via the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and a prospective treatment in cannabis. In other words, fibromyalgia may occur when the ECS is out of balance (homeostasis) and certain deficiencies have developed.
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Traditional Treatments for Fibromyalgia
The usual recommendations for people living with fibromyalgia are sleep, exercise and a healthy diet, although weak-to-medium strength opioids are also prescribed in more extreme circumstances. It is in cases where combinations of antidepressants and opioids are prescribed where medical cannabis really shines.
Using opioids for fibromyalgia is already controversial, and doctors often refrain from prescribing them for fibro pain other than in extreme cases. Other prescription medications usually used for fibromyalgia are tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
Tricyclic antidepressants work by raising the number of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine. They relax the muscles and heighten the effects of endorphins. Side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, dry eyes and constipation. Other antidepressants like duloxetine (Cymbalta), milnacipran (Savella), fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), milnacipran and venlafaxine (Effexor) are also used to control the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
However, antidepressants tend to have little positive effect for most fibro sufferers, and many report more adverse effects than benefits. Moreover, it usually takes about three months for antidepressants to actually start working.
How Marijuana Helps with Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Cannabis, and cannabidiol (CBD) in particular, interacts with serotonin receptors, helping alleviate any depression or anxiety and reducing or replacing the need for antidepressants. A combination of THC and CBD can help alleviate any chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia. Those who are prone to “fibro fog” may find tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) useful, too.
Terpenes like pinene, linalool and myrcene may also prove useful. Targeting the ECS, which “talks” to and influences the behavior of other receptor systems, can help return balance to the levels of serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline in the body.
How to Use Cannabis for Fibromyalgia
Cannabis and CBD topicals may be useful for helping to manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia, as well as the accompanying symptoms of anxiety and depression that chronic pain can cause. Warming CBD oils and cooling CBD gels offer relief from joint and muscle pain for some people with fibromyalgia. CBD bath salts, bath bombs and other luxurious products may also reduce pain while fostering relaxation.
Frederiksberg University Hospital in Denmark is conducting a clinical trial to determine if CBD tablets are effective in treating fibromyalgia symptoms. Participants in the clinical trial will take between 10 and 50 milligrams of CBD in tablet form over a period of 24 weeks. At the end of the clinical trial, researchers will determine whether this ingestion method is helpful for people with fibromyalgia.
Smoking cannabis, consuming edibles and taking sublingual tinctures are other ways to use marijuana for fibromyalgia. But more research is needed on their effectiveness and results will vary among individuals.
Best Strains for Fibromyalgia
The right indica cannabis strain may help some people get to sleep and relieve pain, as well as improving appetite. Some microdose edibles provide long-lasting pain relief and prevent pain and discomfort.
A more sativa strain (or perhaps more accurately, rich in CBD, THCV, limonene, pinene and beta-caryophyllene) might help keep one energized and pain-free enough for exercise. However, it is wise to remember that the sativa and indica distinctions are not necessarily accurate when it comes to determining their effects–looking at the cannabinoid and terpene content of a strain can help you get a better idea.
It’s also important to remember that these suggestions are based on subjective patient reports and will not necessarily affect every user the same way.
The following strains (cultivars), both indica and sativa, may be useful for people with fibromyalgia or other types of chronic pain:
- Granddaddy Purple
- Tahoe OG
- Blueberry Pie
- Red Dragon
- Fire OG
- Special Sauce
- Magic Bullet
- Northern Lights
- Lemon Skunk
Other cannabis strains like Afghan Kush and Blackberry Kush may also help ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
If you or someone you love suffers from fibromyalgia and would like to try cannabis to ease your symptoms, Leafwell can help. Our experienced medical team is here to meet with you in our virtual clinic and guide you through an application for a medical marijuana card.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why does cannabis help fibromyalgia?
Medical marijuana has the benefit of working almost immediately (depending upon method of ingestion) compared to antidepressants, which may take several weeks to display efficacy. Medical cannabis may well work better than many prescribed fibromyalgia medications out there at the moment. Medical cannabis is a much better alternative to addictive opioids when it comes to managing chronic pain.
Can CBD treat fibromyalgia?
CBD products may help treat the depression and anxiety that often accompany fibromyalgia. In addition, some people have found relief from the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia after using CBD.