Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain in the muscles and bones, and is often accompanied by severe fatigue. It affects about 1.7 percent of the population, according to figures collated by Statistics Canada, with women being more than four times likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. Traditional treatment is typically centered around medication or therapy, but increasingly patients are finding relief in medical cannabis.
Is medical cannabis right for your fibromyalgia? Let’s find out.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia has seen its fair share of controversy over the years. In fact, it’s only in the last decade or so that doctors have come to recognize the condition and to this day misdiagnoses remain common in the medical industry. Regardless, fibromyalgia is very much a real condition and its symptoms – pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties – can often have a huge impact on a patient’s quality of life.
Whether or not fibromyalgia can be classified as chronic pain is a matter of some debate, as some research suggests that it could be a neurological disorder. Given the ongoing mystery surrounding fibromyalgia, perhaps it isn’t too surprising that doctors still aren’t certain of what causes the disorder. Genetics, infections and physical and/or emotional trauma are thought to be potential triggers, but exactly how these factors cause fibromyalgia remains to be seen.
Interestingly, some studies (such as this one published in Europe PMC) have also found a correlation between fibromyalgia and deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system (a biological system that can be stimulated by the cannabinoids found in cannabis).
Is Medical Cannabis Effective in Treating Fibromyalgia?
While there’s extensive research investigating the therapeutic effects of cannabis on chronic pain, when it comes to fibromyalgia reliable studies are few and far between. Nevertheless, there’s a wealth of positive anecdotal evidence from fibromyalgia patients who have found relief in medical cannabis and the scientific literature that does exist is promising.
For instance, in an investigation published in PLOS One, researchers studied 56 fibromyalgia patients, half of whom were cannabis users and half of whom were not. Cannabis users experienced reduced pain and stiffness, found it easier to relax and scored higher on mental health tests than those who didn’t use cannabis. Researchers concluded that “The use of cannabis was associated with beneficial effects on some [fibromyalgia] symptoms,” and noted that “Further studies on the usefulness of cannabinoids in FM patients as well as cannabinoid system involvement in the pathophysiology of this condition are warranted.”
How Does Medical Cannabis Compare to Traditional Fibromyalgia Treatment?
As touched on earlier, current fibromyalgia treatment usually takes a multipronged approach and may involve:
- Medication: Over the counter and prescription pain relievers can alleviate pain to an extent, while antidepressants can combat the fatigue linked to fibromyalgia.
- Therapy: Exercise, counseling and conscious lifestyle choices can reduce stress on the body and mind and help patients gain better quality of life.
It’s possible that fibromyalgia patients could supplement their existing treatment with medical cannabis in order to reduce the severity of symptoms. Evidence has shown that medical cannabis is incredibly effective at alleviating chronic pain and does not carry the same risk of dependence or overdose as opioid-based medication. In addition, medical cannabis has been found to regulate sleep and – depending on the dose and concentration of cannabinoids – can stimulate the mind and promote wakefulness – traits that many fibromyalgia patients may find beneficial.
So, medical cannabis can’t cure fibromyalgia but it can potentially reduce the severity of symptoms and help patients reduce the pain and fatigue associated with this poorly understood chronic disorder.
Treat Sleep Issues with Cannabis
Canabo Medical Inc. has identified a few strains of cannabis that work well for treating sleep issues. The company has recently launched an online self-referral program for individuals with sleep issues.
Each patient is unique and should be assessed by one of Canabo’s Cannabinoid Specialists to get the correct strains and amount of cannabis.
By: Jareth Trigwell