Fibromyalgia is a debilitating disorder that affects millions of Americans every year. In fact, between 3 and 6 million have been affected, and the majority are women. It is a mysterious condition and there was a time when it was associated with “hysterical women”, although it is taken more seriously nowadays and many cures, or at least treatments, are sought.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by intense muscle pain and sensitive areas in the body. Those affected may experience depression, headaches, insomnia, digestive problems and fatigue along with many other symptoms, such as relentless muscle pain and sensitivity. For those who suffer, it can be difficult to perform daily tasks and activities, and some may even have difficulty getting out of bed. No one knows what causes this disorder and there is no official cure, but there are some types of medications prescribed to treat the symptoms. These medications are strong with serious side effects and, according to recent studies, most people find they are not effective in treating pain.
Comparisons with treatments currently on the market
The National Pain Foundation and National Pain Report created an online survey to determine if cannabis for fibromyalgia was a viable form of treatment. More than 1,300 participants were surveyed to get an idea of the efficacy of treatments currently on the market compared to cannabis.
Cymbalta (Duloxetine) by Eli Lilly is one of the medications prescribed for fibromyalgia. Of the respondents, 60 percent reported that this medication did not work for them. 8 percent said it was “very effective” and 32 percent said it helped a little. The results of the 3 prescription drugs were very similar. In the case of Pfizer’s Lyrica (pregabalin), 61 percent said it did not work, 10 percent said it was “very effective” and 29 percent said it helped a bit. Finally, there is Savella (Milnacipran) of Forest Laboratories, with 68 percent of people reporting that it did not work, 10 percent said it was “very effective” and 22 percent said it helped a bit.
Survey response to the use of cannabis for fibromyalgia
While 70 percent of the people interviewed reported that they had never tried medical marijuana, the few who had used the plant shared interesting results when analyzing the effectiveness of cannabis for fibromyalgia. Sixty-two percent said it was “very effective” to treat their fibromyalgia symptoms, 33 percent said it helped a little, and only 5 percent said it did not help at all. These results are quite encouraging in factoring that these patients may not have been using cannabis specially designed for fibromyalgia and many of the respondents were still new to the idea of using cannabis for fibromyalgia.
Other studies examining marijuana for fibromyalgia
This is not the only study that shows the effectiveness of cannabis for fibromyalgia. A study, conducted by the University of Heidelberg in Germany and published in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion also yielded some significant results. 9 people with fibromyalgia were given daily doses of THC, which ranged between 2.5 and 15 mg over a period of 3 months. All the subjects involved in the study reported a decrease in daily pain as well as electronically induced pain.
A study published in the Journal of Pain was also useful to clarify the benefits of cannabis for fibromyalgia. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the use of a synthetic cannabinoid called nabilone with 40 patients who have fibromyalgia. It was also found to improve symptoms in all patients. A 2010 study conducted at McGill University in Montreal also reported that small amounts of nabilone were helpful in improving sleep in patients with fibromyalgia.
A 2011 study conducted by researchers from the Hospital del Mar Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, found that cannabis for fibromyalgia is an extremely effective form of treatment. Not only did muscle stiffness and pain improve and alleviate to a great extent, but all the symptoms of fibromyalgia were treated in some way by cannabis, including better sleep quality, better mood, appetite and digestion. The study found that no one’s symptoms worsened after taking cannabis. Mental health was significantly better in those who received cannabis versus those who did not. The study found that “significant pain relief, stiffness, relaxation, drowsiness and well-being perception were observed,
Why cannabis could be useful to treat fibromyalgia
There are many theories about why cannabis treatments were so effective in treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Cannabis is known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Cannabis and both compounds THC and CBD are known to be very effective in the treatment of pain. However, there may be another factor involved. It could be the effect that cannabis has on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that makes all the difference. The ECS is a system in the body designed to support homeostasis. This means that it regulates mood, appetite, sleep, immunity, nervous system and much more. The ECS is composed of CB1 and CB2 receptors that are found throughout the body, in the organs and muscles. When the receivers are activated, They are able to regulate health in the body. Ordinarily, this would be done by chemicals produced in the body, but age, disease, stress and other factors in life can prevent the body from producing the chemicals that would otherwise produce health in the ECS by activating the receptors. Both THC and CBD activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, restoring the body’s health where necessary.
More studies are needed to determine more details about which compounds, strains and doses are most effective in treating fibromyalgia. Many of the studies already done point to several factors that demonstrate the ability of cannabis to treat the symptoms of the disorder and the more data we have on how the compounds work in the plant, the better the resources we have to find and create as much as possible of effective treatment. Meanwhile, for those who live in states where medical marijuana is legal, the news is more than good. Treatment is available and the symptoms of fibromyalgia no longer have to wreak havoc on a person’s life.