Imagine being constantly tired with different types of pain spreading all over your body. Your hips ache, your skin feels bruised and you never know what the next symptom will be.
That is exactly what people suffering from fibromyalgia go through on a daily basis.
Fibromyalgia, a rheumatological condition, jeopardizes normal functioning of the human body by causing musculoskeletal pain and constant fever-like symptoms.
Knowing that medical marijuana is commonly used for treating chronic painand many accompanying symptoms, I decided to investigate whether it can be a viable treatment for fibromyalgia.
In this guide, we’ll explore what exactly constitutes as fibromyalgia, how it is usually treated, how cannabis can help (with more studies than you’ll ever need) and finally some of the best recommended cannabis strains for treating this condition.
So, let’s see how marijuana can help you manage your symptoms or help the ones you love.
Fibromyalgia is an ominous whirlpool of pain and suffering
The simplest way to describe fibromyalgia is having a widespread pain in ankles, joints, and muscles while feeling lethargic and generally sick. There are times when the pain goes away, but it usually comes back.
There are other symptoms which go along with the pain and fatigue: sleeping problems, numbness and tingling, migraines, digestive problems, bowel dysfunction, bladder nuisances, nausea, joint pains (especially in the hips), insomnia, and a few more, depending on the person.
Most patients also report having restless leg syndrome, an unbearable urge to move their legs, which can make falling asleep more difficult.
Another huge problem with fibro is that it leaves patients short tempered and strung out — living with this condition takes its toll on a person and, after a while, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to maintain their social life and build personal relationships, not to mention the challenges of work.
Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition and it’s not yet understood well enough by either doctors or patients.
Doctors, researchers, and scientist predict that both genetic and environmental factors tend to influence the development of the condition. They suspect that the condition occurs when a person’s system becomes hypersensitive and the body cannot process pain as it should.
This means that something that’s usually not painful might be extremely painful for fibromyalgia patients.
Fibromyalgia is not progressive nor fatal, but sometimes the pain can be so severe it becomes almost unbearable. Although it can be terribly painful, fibromyalgia does not cause any permanent damage to joints, soft tissues or muscles.
Researchers have not found the specific cause, but it is believed that higher stress levels, as well as psychological and physical trauma, can trigger fibromyalgia. Some preclinical research indicates that even gluten sensitivity can cause this condition, but further research is needed to confirm that.
However, doctors think that the condition actually causes increased pain sensations in the brain, like irregular activity of neurotransmitters which are responsible for transporting pain signals.
This causes the pain receptors to develop something like a memory, so they simply overreact to the pain signal.
What was really interesting to me is that women make 80 to 90 percent of all fibromyalgia patients.
There is no pharmaceutical cure for fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is still relatively new in medical circles. Therefore, there is no specific medication for it. The condition is usually treated with painkillers, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications.
There are three drugs commonly being used for treating fibromyalgia:
- Lyrica (pregabalin)
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Savella (milnacipran)
The effectiveness of these drugs was explored in a survey done in 2014 by the Global Pain Initiative, which interviewed more than 1,300 fibro patients:
Unfortunately, only 8 to 10 percent of fibromyalgia patients claimed they found some relief with prescription drugs, while 60 to 68 percent of patients did not see any improvements in their symptoms at all.
In the same survey, however, 30 percent of respondents tried using medical marijuana for managing their fibromyalgia symptoms:
Believe it or not, 60% of them found cannabis to be highly effective and 33% said that it helps a little.
Let me put that into perspective — out of 450 fibromyalgia patients who tried medical cannabis, 405 said that cannabis helped them in some way. 270 of those said that it helped them A LOT.
As a matter of fact, here is what the survey concluded:
Medical marijuana is far more effective at treating symptoms of fibromyalgia than any of the three prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the disorder.
This prompted me to dig a bit deeper.
Research on cannabis for fibromyalgia is actually a big, green light
There isn’t much research published on marijuana for fibromyalgia, but there are a few studies which can help us understand this relationship better.
A study from 2007 came to some interesting findings: marijuana eases the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves), which is probably the main cause of pain for people living with fibromyalgia. Compared to the placebo-controlled group, cannabis was found to be an effective treatment for peripheral neuropathy. (1)
Another study was conducted in Spain back in 2011, which found that medical marijuana can be effective in reducing pain in fibromyalgia patients, providing them with better life quality. 28 patients administered medical cannabis by smoking, orally or both, but they all reported a reduction in pain as well as less stiffness. Cannabis therapy also helped them improve their sense of well-being, sleep and relaxation. (2)
Also, a systematic review from 2013 found that the analgesic properties of marijuana are effective in promoting sleep, reducing pain and joint stiffness while improving physical functions and quality of life of fibromyalgia patients. (3)
Here is how marijuana relieves fibromyalgia symptoms
Since we still don’t have enough research and evidence to explain exactly how cannabis works on fibromyalgia, doctors and scientists assume it all has to do with marijuana’s effects on balancing out our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
In fact, there are speculations that fibromyalgia is caused by Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD).
To make this a bit more digestible, CECD happens when our system does not produce enough endocannabinoids (our own natural cannabinoids). So by supplementing those substances with cannabinoids from marijuana we help our body maintain homeostasis — the cellular balance we all need to function normally.
When our ECS is out of balance that’s when health problems are more likely to occur, such as gastrointestinal issues, sleeping disorders, chronic pain, mood changes, muscle spasm, and stiffness.
Synthetic cannabis for fibromyalgia is still a question mark
Patients often ask if synthetic cannabis can be used for treating fibromyalgia symptoms.
In one research with a control placebo group, participants were given nabilone for fibromyalgia, a synthetic cannabinoid made for therapeutic purposes. The drug did have “beneficial, well-tolerated treatment” result, but patients felt more confident in improvements after using natural cannabis. (4)
Dronabinol, or commonly known and sold under the name of Marinol, is a synthesized form of THC. Marinol has been approved by FDA for treating nausea, vomiting, and weight loss from chemotherapy and AIDS in both Canada and the US. However, Marinol has not yet been approved for treating fibromyalgia.
But, synthesized THC does not come cheap.
That’s why most patients willing to try cannabis for fibro are more likely to buy medical cannabis, which often goes for around $5-9 per gram.
The key to finding the best strain for your symptoms is to learn and experiment.
To help you find your footing, I made a short list of the best strains for fibromyalgia which will take you on the path of discovering the best one for you. The method of consumption is up to you.
This powerful Indica, named after the infamous Star Trek species, is one of the best strains for treating nerve damage. Great for muscle spasms and even better for relieving pain, Romulan has a strong sedative effect which is why it’s great for nighttime relaxation.
This is an Indica dominant hybrid with very high THC levels. Scooby Snacks starts with heavy cerebral buzz and body relaxation, but when it starts to wear off it brings forth a feeling of happiness. Since it’s a very potent strain, novice users should take it slow with this one.
Dynamite is an Indica strain which contains slightly more THC than CBD, so you’ll get both high and pain-free. Also, you’ll feel relaxed, it will calm your nerves, and reduce stress and depression. If you are having trouble falling asleep at night due to your fibromyalgia, this is a strain for you.
Fibromyalgia patients like using Cannatonic because of its high CBD and low THC levels. Cannatonic is a good choice for both beginners and veteran users since it produces just a slight psychoactive effect that does not last too long. This strain supposedly crushes the pain in minutes after using it.
It’s highly recommended to use this strain when you are at your comfy house, ready to chill, and not when you have to run your errands. Tahoe OG is strong, so if you are suffering from severe pain, as well as depression, this might be just the right strain for you.
A very popular medical strain for daytime experience, it provides relief from fibromyalgia symptoms without sedating effects. It’s a very popular strain for treating pain and depression. If you need a break from everything that’s going on in your life, get some Blue Dream and you should be good for a few hours at least.
The ultimate strain for every medical condition — Charlotte’s Web is the strain with almost no THC content, but is very high in CBD. That’s why patients don’t feel high and buzzed, but rather relaxed and pain free. Prepare yourself to be happy and without stress for a while.
Critical Mass is a strain that you should use before going to bed, especially if you have a sleeping disorder, depression or anxiety. Because of its high THC content, this strain provides intense “body high” feeling but without heavy sedative effect. It wears off after about three hours.
Its name says it all. Harmonia gets you into balance, with a feeling of harmony and pleasure in your entire body. This Indica strain has slightly higher levels of CBD than THC, which makes it perfect for daytime use since it provides almost no psychoactive effects.
Key Lime Pie
Beginners should be careful with Key Lime Pie since users report it to be quite overwhelming. Its high THC levels help to relax the muscles and introduce that much needed sleep after a long day of fighting fibromyalgia symptoms.
Marijuana is the next road to explore
Medical marijuana is now available more than ever, especially in the US and Canada. If you, or people you care about, are struggling with fibromyalgia symptoms, the studies and surveys I found in my research indicate that marijuana can be a very helpful treatment.
Marijuana is being successfully used for treating many different medical conditions (especially pain) and it can bring relief without jeopardizing your health.
if you haven’t found relief from fibromyalgia using prescription drugs, and are interested in trying medical cannabis, consult with your doctor in order to develop a treatment plan.
- Russo EB; Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?; Neuro Endocrinology Letters; February-April 2004; 25(1-2):31-9
- Fiz J, Durán M, Capellà D, Carbonell J, Farré M; Cannabis use in patients with fibromyalgia: effect on symptoms relief and health-related quality of life; PLoS One; April 2011; 6(4):e18440
- Nascimento SS, DeSantana JM, Nampo FK, Ribeiro EAN, Silva DL, Araújo-Júnior JX, Almeida JRGS, Bonjardim LR, Araújo AAS, Quintans-Júnior LJ; Efficacy and Safety of Medicinal Plants or Related Natural Products for Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review; Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine; Jun 2013
- Skrabek RQ, Galimova L, Ethans K, Perry D; Nabilone for the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia; The Journal of Pain: The Official Journal of the American Pain Society; February 2008; 9(2):164-73