What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that affects 3-10% of adults. It is characterised by widespread pain, and a number of other physical issues, such as:
- Disturbed sleep
- Tender point pain
- Irritable bowel syndrom
- Fibro-fog: cognitive issues with remembering, learning new things and concentration
The psychological effects of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia - sometimes known as fibro - is a complex condition which is also commonly linked with psychological symptoms, such as depression and anxiety.
Fibro can be an exhausting condition to manage, both physically and psychologically. In addition to this, fibro is linked with low levels of certain hormones which can increase the likelihood of developing depression.
Fibromyalgia is not quantifiable. That is, there are no tests that will definitively identify that someone has the condition. This has led some - even health care professionals - to suggest that fibromyalgia is psychosomatic.
This notion is unhelpful to the sufferer. Moreover, it can take a long time to receive a diagnosis, given that there is no testing available. Fibro is often diagnosed once all other options have been ruled out.
Fibromyalgia is often thought of as a new condition, but actually, it's been around for centuries. It would most likely have been diagnosed as rheumatism originally. The term "fibrositis" was mentioned for the first time during a lecture in 1904.
How can CBD help fibromyalgia?
Research and experience tells us that medical cannabis and CBD have already been seen to have a positive effect on many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
There is promising evidence of the effectiveness of CBD in neuropathic and inflammatory pain. Given CBD has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. In 2008, scientific studies from the past 20 years were evaluated to see if CBD could relieve chronic pain. The scientists came to the conclusion that CBD could be effective in pain relief without adverse side effects. Incidentally, this study also concludes that CBD may help with chronic pain related sleep disorders.
More and more studies indicate that cannabidiol can affect our sleep in a positive way, due to its interaction with the body's endocannabinoid system. One study looked at tbe effect of CBD on anxiety and insomnia. We know that anxiety can be one of the main causes of sleep issues. This study consisted of 72 adults, 47 with anxiety and 25 with poor sleep. The results from the study showed that there was a 79% reduction in anxiety within the first month of taking CBD. With a 67% increase in sleep scores.
In a 2016 study by the University of Colorado, 121 migraine patients were given medical marijuana daily. It was investigated whether migraine attacks can be prevented in this way. The results were outstanding: around 40% of the test subjects stated that the number of migraine headaches had halved.
Irritable bowel syndrome
There is promising research available to demonstrate the effectiveness of CBD on IBS symptoms. But little scientific evidence for CBD specifically in the treatment of IBS. A noteworthy portion of IBS patients use cannabis to alleviate symptoms such as pain, nausea, appetite and to improve their mood in general.
What studies are there on CBD and fibromyalgia?
Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia - 2019
A 6 month study took place in Isreal which consisted of 367 participants who had a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
82% of this group were women. This is quite representative of the general population. Although fibromyalgia affects both men and women, roughly 90% of sufferers are women.
The researchers identified that the current treatment for fibromyalgia included opioids, which can cause unpleasant side effects.
This study investigates whether medical cannabis could be used as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia, given that its side effects are minor and uncommon.
This was an observational study which included a six month follow-up assessment. The study required patients to answer questionnaires in a specialised medical cannabis clinic.
The participants were given a low dosage of medical cannabis initially, which was gradually increased. By the end of the study:
- The average dosage of cannabis was 1000 mg per day (the average dosage at the start of the study was 670mg per day)
- The average dosage of THC was 140mg per day
- The average dosage of CBD was 39mg per day.
The study has limitations, the researchers themselves admit this. These included:
- Roughly 30% of the study group could not be included in the follow up assessment, for various reasons.
- 14 different strains were used in the study. Some were higher in CBD, some were higher in THC. This made it difficult to compare the effects.
It is important to note that medical cannabis can differ to CBD in that it can contain THC. Possibly higher levels of THC that we would find in a full-spectrum product. The study remains very relevant, and is another step towards medical cannabis becoming an accepted treatment, but this is worth bearing this in mind.
So... what were the results?
The researchers concluded that cannabis was a safe and effective treatment for fibromyalgia. This included positive results in terms of offering relief to patients, as well as causing few side effects.
However, some relatively minor side effects did occur for a small number of patients. Some of the patients did discontinue the study as a result of this.
The most common adverse effects were:
Mild and included dizziness (7.9%)
Dry mouth (6.7%)
Gastrointestinal symptoms (5.4%)
The researchers relayed that success was achieved in 81% of the patients.
A significant improvement was found in pain intensity and there were significant improvement in fibro symptoms, as well as overall quality of life.
At the start of the study, 52% of patients described their pain level as high. By the end of the study only 8% reported their pain levels as high!
At the start of the study, 93% of patients reported sleep issues. By the end of the study, 73% of patients reported an improvement in sleep. And 13% of patients reporting their sleep issues had disappeared altogether!
In addition to this, nearly 60% of patients reported having depression-related symptoms at the start of the study. 80% of patients reported an improvement by the end of the 6 months.
The researchers concluded:
- Medical cannabis could be an effective and safe treatment to fibromyalgia.
- The results imply that medical cannabis could be a promising therapeutic option for the treatment of fibromyalgia, especially for those who do not response to existing therapies.
- Medical cannabis is effective and safe when titrated slowly and gradually.
- Cannabis therapy should be considered to treat fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care. This is especially significant given medical cannabis' low rates of addiction and lack of side effects - especially when compared to opioids.
- This study focused on pain, sleep and depression. Further research is needed to explore the effects of medical cannabis on other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. For example, cognitive impairment and fatigue.
A study on the analgesic effects of medical cannabis in chronic pain patients with fibromyalgia - 2019
This study involved 25 women with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. However, 5 of these pulled out of the study after the first visit for variety of reasons. 2 of which were adverse side effects - dizziness and nausea.
Overall, the researchers relayed that no serious adverse events occurred.
Each participant was given four types of medical cannabis, which they inhaled:
- 200mg of medicinal cannabis that was high in both CBD and THC (Bediol)
- 200mg of medicinal cannabis that was high in CBD and low in THC (Bedrolite)
- 100mg of medicinal cannabis that was low in CBD and high in THC (Bedrocan)
- A placebo. That is, contained no CBD or THC.
The participants recieved pain tests before cannabis inhalation and then at 1, 2, and 3 hours after taking the medication.
Two types of pain tests were used, a spontaneous electrical pain response test and an evoked pressure pain response test.
The pain scores were similiar with both the placebo and non-placebo medical cannabis for the electrical pain respose test.
However, the results were more far more interesting for the pressure pain test.
Both the Bedrocan and Bediol caused a significant increase in tolerance to the pressure applied to the skin throughout the study. The Bediol had significantly greater effects than Bedrolite.
Bediol - the one that's high in CBD and THC - was more effective than the placebo. Which resulted in a 30% reduction of spontaneous pain in 18 of the 20 women.
Both the high THC varieties significantly improved pressure pain thresholds in comparison to the placebo.
Bedrolite -the one that was high in CBD and low in THC - didn’t show any evidence of being able to relieve spontaneous or evoked pain.
Cannabis use in patients with fibromyalgia: effect on symptoms relief and health-related quality of life - 2011
This study involved 56 fibromyalgia sufferers. And once again, the majority were women.
This was a slightly different experiment to the above studies. The participants were not given medicinal cannabis during the study, but were asked to describe their cannabis use patterns and what benefits they experienced.
The researchers then assessed the quality of life of fibromyalgia sufferers who used cannabis and compared this with non-cannabis using fibromyalgia sufferers.
Therefore, the study involved just 2 groups.
- 28 participants who did not use cannabis.
- 28 participants who were cannabis users. Their usage varied.
The researchers found that positive results were reported just two hours following cannabis use. With participants reporting a reduction in pain and stiffness, with an increase in drowsiness.
The researchers also found that the cannabis users also had slightly higher mental health scores than the non-users.
There are clear limitations in this study, and we cannot be sure to what extent it can be compared to CBD use.
Regardless, there is still value to be found in the results. And again, this is another positive study which will hopefully help in the fight to cannabis becoming an accepted method of relief.
More success stories for fibromyalgia and CBD
Our success stories come from social media, other CBD websites or through people we know personally. Some people are comfortable sharing their names and products, others prefer to remain anonymous. We feel hearing other people's positive experiences are a vital part of learning about how CBD can help, although it is important to remember that not all CBD products work the same for everyone. Don't be disheartened if one product/dosage doesn't work for you... keep trying!
We'd love to hear your success stories! If you would like to share yours, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org