There’s a lot of uncertainty in the fibromyalgia community surrounding medical cannabis’ potential efficacy for helping sufferers. This guide will offer insight into what makes cannabis such an intriguing option for those with fibromyalgia, and some tips for finding the right medical cannabis treatment type and regimen for you!
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What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia affects nearly 5 million individuals in the United States alone. Often compared closely to arthritis, fibromyalgia is considered to be a pain processing disease. Put another way, sufferers have a hypersensitivity to pain; they process physical pain more acutely than non-sufferers.
Even though people with Fibromyalgia do not experience inflammation or damage in their joints, it feels as if they do. This led many medical researchers to investigate whether this sensitivity to pain stems from chemical differences in the brain, finding that sufferers tend to have an abnormal increase in release of neurotransmitters that communicate pain signals. These pain neurotransmitters seem to fire more often, making patients more sensitive.
How does medical cannabis affect fibromyalgia?
Medical Cannabis can work to slow down these overfiring pain transmitters. Fibromyalgia and medical cannabis both contain certain physical and neurological aspects, which makes cannabis such an intriguing treatment option. Medical cannabis activates your brain’s endocannabinoid system, a network of neurotransmitters that produce anti inflammatory effects, which help kill and mask pain.
Along with physical benefits, medical cannabis can provide psychological benefits as well to address the many comorbid conditions that accompany fibromyalgia, like depression and anxiety. Continue reading to learn more about medical cannabis’ efficacy with regard to fibromyalgia, and some tips for determining the right medical cannabis treatment plan and regimen.
Medical Cannabis and Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia and the Endocannabinoid System
While medical cannabis is an interesting fibromyalgia solution, it is by no means an end all cure. Cannabis affects everyone differently, and not everyone with fibromyalgia will find medical cannabis effective. That being said, the logic behind cannabis’ supposed fibromyalgia efficacy entails our body’s EC, or endocannabinoid system, a group of neurotransmitters which connect to receptor sites across the body that relate to pain sensation, mood, memory, and appetite.
Fibromyalgia sufferers may have an inhibited, or malfunctioning endocannabinoid system, according to Dr. Ethan Russo. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, or CED as Russo calls it, would result in, “a lowered pain threshold…along with derangements of digestion, mood and sleep.” These symptoms are in line with traditional fibromyalgia symptoms.
Fibromyalgia sufferers cannot produce enough EC neurotransmitters, and therefore end up with a hyper sensitivity toward pain. Medical Cannabis, when used, releases cannabinoids into corresponding barren EC receptors. These cannabinoids do the job naturally producing endocannabinoids aren’t present to do, which lowers one’s pain sensitivity during the duration of the cannabis’ effects.
Medical cannabis has many properties that provide tangible, physical benefits for patients suffering from fibromyalgia pain. The National Pain Foundation conducted a survey that found that 62% of responding fibromyalgia patients said that cannabis was effective in treating pain symptoms. Of those 62%, they should likely thank THC and CBD, two cannabinoids, or compounds, found in medical cannabis that provide medical cannabis’ pain relieving, anti inflammatory properties.
THC, perhaps the most commonly known cannabinoid, provides the “high” that many people associate with cannabis, but that’s not all. THC has analgesic properties, meaning it can be used to manage fibromyalgia pain.
CBD, the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, also has anti inflammatory and pain management properties, without the euphoric high. Both compounds, which are naturally found in cannabis, may work to improve the physical health and wellbeing of patients with fibromyalgia.
Cannabis Indica, which we will highlight in detail in an upcoming section, is known for its bodily effects. Indicas in small doses and potency provide relaxation, and stronger indicas can numb the body and help you fall and stay asleep.
Studies from as early as 2007 have found that cannabis compounds provide relief from depression in small doses. While in depth discussion of depression is outside this blogs scope, it should be noted that chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression, and stress is linked with fibromyalgia. Cannabis, in moderate doses, has been found to alleviate stress and improve well being.
Medical cannabis provides more than just a feel good body sensation or pain reliever. Its effects on mood and wellbeing may alleviate daily stressors that exacerbate fibromyalgia pain.
Cannabis Sativa, which we discuss in the section below, is known for its mind effects. Sativas provide what has been often described as an uplifting, energetic “high” accompanied by pain relief and a creativity burst, or stimulation.
What Strains are Best for Fibromyalgia Patients?
Again, it’s important to note that medical cannabis isn’t right for every fibromyalgia sufferer. For those who are interested in cannabis as an option for fibromyalgia symptom relief, it’s important to ask yourself what medical cannabis affects you desire. Do you want all out physical pain relief, and sleep aid, or do you want an uplifting feeling that will distract you from your pain symptoms, while helping you concentrate?
If you answered yes to the first question, than Cannabis Indica, body heavy stains are definitely the way to go. You can find great reference lists for fibromyalgia relevant strains, and many highlight a great expanse of indicas that provide incredible pain relief.
On the other hand, Cannabis Sativa strains are often lauded for their fast acting, euphoric effect. One benefit these head heavy therapeutic effects provide sufferers is duration. Because Sativa’s are generally long lasting, fibromyalgia sufferers don’t have to repeatedly dose to maintain their benefits, which is preferred since fibromyalgia is a chronic condition.
Since medical cannabis effects each patient differently, there is a trial and error process that goes into picking the most appropriate strain and regimen for patients with fibromyalgia.
How to Take Medical Cannabis
In general, medical cannabis can be administered three ways:
- Smoking – Inhalation of combusted, dried cannabis flour.
- Vaporizing – Heats cannabis to temperatures that turn compounds into water vapor
- Edibles – Cannabis baked into food items to be taken orally
There are more ways to ingest cannabis, but for our purposes I wanted to outline the most common forms medical cannabis takes, and their relation to fibromyalgia.
For many patients, whether due to respiratory illness, irritation, or precaution, do not wish to smoke medical cannabis. While smoking cannabis isn’t linked to cancer, mainly because it’s many cancer killing properties work in synergy to make it’s smoke less harmful to lungs, some patients can’t smoke it because of comfort problems or other conditions, like asthma.
For these patients, vaporizers, edibles, and other smokeless forms of medical cannabis may be the go to.
For patients who want relief as soon as possible, smoking medical cannabis is perhaps the fastest way to get it’s effects, as your lungs send the smoke, and cannabinoids, directly to your brain. Edibles take longer to take effect, but have a larger duration, meaning they can be beneficial if 1) you can’t dose (smoke) cannabis throughout the day because of work or responsibilities and 2) if you have trouble staying asleep edibles effects will last throughout the night.
Fibromyalgia Relief without Impairment: CBD Strains
You may be a fibromyalgia sufferer, reading through this blog post thinking, “great, medical cannabis can help fibromyalgia pain, but what if I can’t or don’t want to get high?” You have quite a bit in common with Charlotte Figi, a girl who, at the age of six, suffered from Dravet syndrome and experienced around 300 seizures a day. Her parents were intrigued by medical cannabis’ efficacy, but didn’t want their daughter to experience the euphoric “high” that accompanied cannabis. Thankfully, a strain was developed for charlotte and people like her, called Charlotte’s Web, which has extremely low amounts of THC, but high levels of CBD.
There are many strain solutions like Charlotte’s Web available for patients who want to try medical cannabis without being impaired by the euphoric “high” that is associated with it.
In closing, I again want to stress that medical cannabis may not be right for everyone who suffers from fibromyalgia. That being said, if you believe it may be right for you, or are curious, I hope this guide shed some light on your questions and concerns. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below!
About the Author
Chris Matich is a professional writer, journalist, and editor living in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris blogs for Schenley.net. His writing interests include LGBT+ people/issues, Sports Writing, and blogging. Chris currently writes about web optimization, blogging practices, medical cannabis, and cannabis lifestyle. He writes fiction and creative nonfiction in his spare time.