Prescription drugs when it comes to fibromyalgia relief. This phenomenon isn’t surprising; researchers have been pushing for cannabis-based therapies for the disease for over the past 12 years. Luckily, there are now more options than ever for patients hoping to kick narcotics and find relief in a more natural and effective way.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
For decades, fibromyalgia (FM) patients have gotten the run-around from the medical community. Ten years ago, medical professionals were still arguing over whether or not fibromyalgia actually exists. Fortunately, most of them have now come to their senses. Also known as myofascial pain syndrome, the precise cause of fibromyalgia has yet to be found.
While the primary trait is seemingly unexplained and often debilitating pain, the illness actually comes with a wide variety of symptoms that range from:
Chronic pain with specific tender points
Widespread stiffness in the muscles
Irritable Bowl Syndrom (IBS)
Depression and Low Mood
The Endocannabinoid System and Fibromyalgia
There’s something interesting about the series of symptoms listed above. These are the exact same symptoms that doctors like Ethan Russo have discussed time and time again in endocannabinoid research. Dr. Ethan Russo is a neurologist and pharmacologist. He is currently the Medical Director of Phytecs, a company that develops medicines, cosmetics, and lifestyle products that incorporate cannabinoid medicines. Cannabinoids are compounds found in the marijuana plant that take the place of endocannabinoids in our bodies.
In the early 2000s, Russo suggested that fibromyalgia may actually be a part of a larger disease called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD). You can think of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as a giant communication network in your body. Different chemicals known as “endocannabinoids” attach to receptors on your cells, telling them what to do. The ECS links certain parts of your brain to corresponding body parts, so a disruption or chemical imbalance in the endocannabinoid system means that these communication signals get disrupted.
The result can be an array of symptoms, including:
Here’s a brief summary of research suggesting that the endocannabinoid system may play a part in fibromyalgia:
Study 1: Is CECD A Thing?
Russo first proposed the concept of CECD in 2003. In his paper, he links IBS, migraine, and fibromyalgia. He concludes that these conditions “display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may be suitably treated with cannabinoid medicines”.
Study 2: An Argument For Cannabinoid Medicine
In 2008, Russo expanded on his original CEDC paper and focused specifically on pain. In this article, he explained that THC reduces the hypersensitivity to pain experienced by both migraine and fibromyalgia patients. THC fills in for our own body’s natural endocannabinoid, anandamide. This is again, strong evidence linking these diseases to the endocannabinoid system.
He argues further that cannabinoid medicines have other side benefits, including anti-nausea, anti-insomnia, and neuroprotective antioxidant properties. These additional benefits may help relieve some of the other symptoms often experienced by fibromyalgia patients.
Study 3: Cannabinoids Improve Wellbeing
Researchers from the University of Manitoba treated fibromyalgia patients with Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid. Researchers found that the cannabinoid was well-tolerated and decreased pain. At the 4-week mark in the study, patients saw drastic decreases in tender points and anxiety symptoms. They also saw significant improvements in results from Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaires (FIQ). The FIQ tests for quality of life disturbances like depression, fatigue, interference with work, muscle stiffness, and overall physical functioning.
“This suggests that nabilone is an effective treatment even for those with severe cases of fibromyalgia with marked functional impairment,” write the study authors.
Study 4: CECD Revisited
Ten years after Russo’s first CECD was published, California-based researchers revisited his initial discussion. In their literature review, they confirmed evidence that imbalances in the endocannabinoid system play a role in fibromyalgia, IBS, and chronic migraine. They also suggested that ECS deficiencies may play a key role in a host of other diverse neurological and otherwise seemingly unexplained illnesses.
How Can Cannabis Help?
The list above is only the beginning when it comes to understanding the precise connection between fibromyalgia and the ECS. Only clinical trials and more research will be able to say for sure just how effective cannabis-based medicines can be in treating this illness. In the meantime, there are a few significant ways marijuana can help relieve symptoms:
Sleep disturbances are all-too-common for fibromyalgia patients. In fact, some researchers claim that sleep disturbances coupled with tender points are the defining characteristics of the illness. Marijuana not only can help you fall asleep, but night-time medication extends your deep sleep cycle. Getting a good nights’ rest is extremely important for fibromyalgia patients, as too many interruptions increases your likelihood of pain flare-ups the next day.
To ensure that you actually get some sleep, make sure you’re smoking/vaping/eating a heavy indica strain.
Aim for strains like:
Via an online survey by the National Pain Foundation and NationalPainReport.com, 62% of cannabis-consuming fibromyalgia patients found the herb “very effective” in relieving pain. This is actually quite amazing because marijuana drastically outperformed common prescription drugs like Cymbalta, Lyrica, and Savella. Only 8-10% of patients reported that these drugs were “very effective” in controlling symptoms.
This isn’t the only research that’s shown marijuana is a powerful painkiller. Several studies have shown that cannabis can either work in tandem with opiates or replace them altogether.
Aim for strains like:
Fun fact: you have cannabinoid receptors in your skin. So, cannabis topicals might be a good addition to ingested or inhaled marijuana. You can gently rub marijuana-infused lotions, balms, or oils onto tender points for additional pain relief.
Muscle spasms, tightness, and twitching are not uncommon in FM patients. Underneath each trigger point lies a contracted muscle. These trigger points can differ pain to different parts of the body when pressed. Muscle spasms and twitching can also happen a lot at night, interrupting sleep. Fortunately, cannabis can help.
Marijuana’s ability to put an end to muscle spasms came to light via research on Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In a 2011 study, mice injected with a mock form of MS. The injection caused extreme muscle tightness, contractions, and spasticity. After receiving CBD injections, the mice regained mobility and saw a drastic improvement in symptoms. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid.
There is even a marijuana-derived prescription drug out on the market in many countries. The drug, Sativex, contains a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. While muscle spasms from fibromyalgia may be different from those in MS patients, cannabis can still work wonders on any muscle that seems to have developed a mind of its own.
Aim for strains like:
One to One
Having any chronic illness is never easy, but feeling constantly fatigued and in pain without explanation can be very taxing. Enjoying a little cannabis is a sure-fire way to put your mind at ease and even a smile on your face. In low doses, psychoactive THC is a potent antidepressant. Other non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD and CBC also have strong mood-lifting properties.
Source : Health Care Plane