Medical Cannabis Treatment for Fibromyalgia: Does it work?
A long-term health condition, reports suggest that fibromyalgia affects around 2.9 million people in the UK. This figure puts it among one of the most common chronic pain conditions in the country, but only 37% of the population knows what it is.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localised areas of the body, known as “tender points.” Tender points are specific places on the body, such as the neck, back, hips and shoulders, where people with fibromyalgia feel pain in response to slight pressure. The pain associated with fibromyalgia can be severe and debilitating and can interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily activities.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some researchers believe that fibromyalgia may be caused by abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in how the brain processes pain signals. Other possible causes include physical or emotional trauma, infections and certain diseases.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia symptoms include fatigue, widespread pain and stiffness, sleep disturbances, headaches, IBS, depression and anxiety and difficulty concentrating. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but treatment options include medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes.
Medical Cannabis Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Because there is currently no known treatment for fibromyalgia, treatment mostly revolves around managing symptoms. When the most common treatment methods, including medication, physical therapy, exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), fail to work, medical cannabis emerges as the next viable option.
Medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, has been proposed as a potential treatment option for fibromyalgia due to its potential to reduce pain and improve sleep.
Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids, the most well-known of which are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the compound that is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Studies have suggested that THC and CBD may effectively reduce pain and improve sleep in people with fibromyalgia.
Medical cannabis is believed to relieve chronic pain through its interactions with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates pain, inflammation and other physiological processes.
THC and CBD interact with specific receptors in the endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2, and can decrease pain perception and inflammation. CBD especially is thought to interact with the body’s cannabinoids and modulate their effects.
Research suggests that medical cannabis for neuropathic pain may be particularly effective, which is caused by damage to the nervous system.
In a study conducted in 2007, it was found that the synthetic cannabinoid, nabilone, had significant pain-relieving effects compared to a placebo.
Another study conducted in 2018 with 20 fibromyalgia patients assessed the pain-relieving effects of four types of medical cannabis. Each type had a different percentage of THC and CBD, of which one type had neither THC nor CBD. The study found that patients who used medical cannabis with higher doses of THC felt that their pain threshold increased when compared to the placebo, whereas those who used the cannabis with a higher dose of CBD reported no significant pain relief. This shows that THC, not CBD, might be responsible for the pain-relieving effects of medical cannabis.
There are many medical cannabis products available on the market today, but not every product will be right for your condition. To ensure you’re getting the right dose of THC and CBD to relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia, it is important to work closely with a medical cannabis specialist.
As with any medication, medical cannabis does not come without side effects. This is why working closely with a specialist when using cannabis as a medicine is important since the specialist can monitor your symptoms carefully and change dosage as necessary.
In the UK, medical cannabis cannot be used as a first-line treatment. Any fibromyalgia patient looking to relieve symptoms using medical cannabis must have tried at least two other treatment methods or therapies before they can be eligible for cannabis treatment for fibr