What We Know About CBD for Fibromyalgia

What we currently know about fibromyalgia is actually quite limited. Unfortunately, the research behind the causes of fibromyalgia can go as far as to say that it is from genetics.

However, that’s not to say that research is only just beginning. In fact, in 1904, William Gowers coined the term “fibrositis” for muscle pain being associated with muscular rheumatism. It wasn’t until 1976 when Hugh A. Smythe created the classification for fibromyalgia and the widely relatable tender points among fibro patients.

So, what’s happening now in the field of research? Well, as many sufferers of fibromyalgia may tell you, many pain medications simply don’t help ease the pain. Because it is a neurological disorder, treatment can be very ineffective, and diagnosing is problematic. But a new age of research in medicine is entering the US, and the effects of cannabidiol as a part of medical cannabis is gaining attention from not just doctors, but patients too.

Also known as CBD, cannabidiol is just one of the one hundred plus cannabinoids found in both hemp and cannabis. Research suggests that it can help diabetics with neuropathy, pain as well as glucose levels. But the major reasons people have been turning to CBD is for anxiety, pain, as well as sleep

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is described as pain, differing in severity, surrounding what is normally called “tender points.” Sadly, it’s far more complex than that. Fibromyalgia is a neurological disorder driven by the central nervous system and is believed to amplify painful sensations brought on by pain signals.

Fibromyalgia vector illustration. Diagnosis symptoms labeled diagram. Problems with jaw, joints, skin, muscle, eyes, urinary and reproductive system. Reason of fatigue. Source

It is also known for bringing the “fibro fog” which causes intense drowsiness, likely depression, sleep disturbance, and stiffness. Sleeplessness and depression pose major issues and actually have a surprising relationship with fibromyalgia. Many researchers believe that they have a link. People with fibromyalgia are up to three times more likely to have depression at the time of diagnosis than those who do not have fibromyalgia. Depression has similar pathophysiology and both depression and FM are largely targeted by the same drugs with dual action on serotoninergic and noradrenergic systems. This shows that depression and FM function in a similar fashion. While this may not seem too exciting, it immensely helps the diagnosis process in the long run due to the absence of physical symptoms.

One study even suggests that depression is a predisposition for FM, and that certain traumatic events that cause depression, as well as physical pain, can produce a chronic, potent issue. Fibromyalgia and depression have a very clear link, and of course, the pain brought on by FM can cause such depression to worsen. And while people with fibromyalgia are much more likely to have depression and anxiety, that does not make FM a psychological condition. It can show that people who have a genetic predisposition to FM also means they may have a predisposition to conditions like depression.

The Complexity of Fibromyalgia

The pain that Fibromyalgia brings varies from person to person. The diagnosis process has to go through points of severity and is different for all. Similar to the classifications of arthritis, although people with rheumatoid arthritis often have fibromyalgia simultaneously. 

Fibromyalgia is a neurological disorder that affects as nearly as 2-4% of the US population, and 3-6% of the world. It stands still as one of the most common chronic pain conditions to be prescribed for all ages. Juvenile fibromyalgia, or FM, has been documented in account for it running down in genetics.  It’s believed that 75-90% of FM cases are women, usually being diagnosed from ages 20 to 50 years, but the percentage of diagnosis increases as we get older, and is believed that 8% of age 80 and older meet with the American College of Rheumatology classification for fibromyalgia.

To make matters more stressful for those suffering, not much is known about the disorder. Although research shows that it is a neurological disorder, medicines can pose no help at times. The little research as well as the minimal showing symptoms, the dissonance between the patient and doctor is very real. As of 2016, one quarter of FM patients didn’t feel their doctors held their condition “very legitimate.” This is a big problem for people with FM, as the pain is very real, but the signs are not, and is often associated with a form of arthritis. 

Traditional Fibromyalgia Treatment

It’s not as simple as a blood test. Diagnosis requires an assessment of symptom severity, and that’s really all doctors can look for considering there are no forms of imaging available.

Patients with FM are highly likely to have other chronic conditions, which can help the diagnosis process. A patient-centered approach is typical when diagnosing, and education of the strategies of self-management. Physical therapy can help and is usually utilized before medication is given. Typical drugs that are given to fibro patients are duloxetine, pregabalin, milnacipran, and amitriptyline.

The major posing problem with these traditional treatments is that the pain is directly caused from a neurological issue. Whereas this can cause some confusion with the condition, the pain can very easily stay severe despite drug interference. Confusion among people as well as researchers suggest that FM is essentially pain coming from nothing, and the overwhelming evidence of the link between depression and FM pose the question if it is really a form of depression and arthritis, with both having one underlying condition. These medications have side effects as well, which include: 

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Itching, rashes, irritation
  • Impotence
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue

Side effects pose a serious risk to the mental and physical health of fibro patients. A long list of medications that do not guarantee ease of pain. On top of that, FM commonly overlaps with other somatic syndromes, which include chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and many others which require medications of their own.

Fibromyalgia can develop out of the blue, even though it is likely a biological response of the cumulative effects of the many types of stresses that can cause it, physical and mental. This, in combination with a predisposition to psychiatric/musculoskeletal disorders, fibromyalgia can develop.

Overall, researchers try to do a multidimensional management program. A combination of rehabilitative practices to reduce stress as well as depression, and low doses of the drugs listed.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is just one of the many components found in medical cannabis as well as hemp. Studies support the idea that these combined cannabinoids have a synergistic effect which can help immensely with nerve pain, neurological imbalances (which includes blood pressure, blood sugar, as well as neurotransmitter levels).

But how can CBD help monitor such pivotal brain functions? Animals, not just humans, harbor what’s called the “endocannabinoid system,” or ENS. This is a part of the central nervous system which contains our CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors inherently bind to different cannabinoids and naturally utilize them as a part of metabolism. Research is being done on the effects of the processing of these cannabinoids, and studies show that they can reduce inflammation in joints, help monitor blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and even neurodegeneration with multiple sclerosis

What’s particularly fascinating about CBD is the overall healing effects it has by working simply through neuroreceptors. It has also been shown to revitalize serotonin receptors, which plays a role in pain perception, maintaining body temperature, as well as a prevention to symptoms of psychosis

Fibro Fog

Episodes of intense drowsiness, fatigue and depression can envelop a sufferer’s life for days on end. This drowsiness, as well as fatigue, are both conditions that have been shown to improve upon the usage of controlled doses of CBD.

Insomnia can develop, and while it can be acute or chronic, studies show that CBD can help a person stay asleep by monitoring REM cycles through CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Pain

The pain brought on by FM is very severe. Being a neurological condition, the pain can be intense, and deep-rooted. Some medications may help, but treatment differs from patient to patient.

CBD helps with pain in many ways, one of which is by working through dopamine receptors, which can alleviate forms of pain. However, fibro patients typically turn to CBD for the impactful properties it has on the fog. 

A Consensus?

A study report published in 2018 conducted research on fibro patients in Israel who consume cannabis for the condition, with CBD in the strain. A survey conducted on 383 people, pain relief was reported among 94% of the people. Similarly, 93% reported improved sleep quality. Another 87% reported an improvement in depression, and 62% reported improvement in anxiety. These numbers are extremely promising for a survey. It shows that people are routinely helped by the plethora of cannabinoids in medical cannabis. High CBD strains are extremely common for people with arthritis and other painful ailments. For fibromyalgia, the pain is very deep-rooted. Studies have not concluded CBD as a reliable pain reliever for this neurological condition, but rather, a possible option for those with FM that are suffering from depression, anxiety, or even insomnia, all of which are very common in patients.

Clearly there is a gap in which the understanding of fibromyalgia results with effective treatment. While medication is available, it simply isn’t a reliable pain reliever. FM does not just bring pain, but also a forever returning “fog.” 

CBD is an option in which studies suggest that it helps with sleeping problems, pain, as well as anxiety. Fibro patients are frequently turning to medical cannabis for pain relief, as well as stress relief. 

Is CBD Right For You?

If you have fibromyalgia, and are currently taking medications for your condition, understand that CBD is just one of the many cannabinoids found in medical cannabis and hemp. Products labeled as “Full Spectrum” contain many of the cannabinoids. This is great as many studies have been done on the synergistic effects of these cannabinoids, and that they work far more effectively when with each other.

CBD can interact with other medications. In fact, researchers are learning how it can change the dosage of many other drugs, which can be very helpful in the future for people with complex conditions that require many medications. It’s important to talk to your doctor about taking CBD along with your fibromyalgia treatment. CBD is rising in the medical field and is gaining ground to become a new advancement in medicine. 

Keep up with research and how CBD can manage neurological pain, as studies now conclude its major role in helping fibro patients mainly with insomnia, stress and depression. However, this does not take away from the legitimacy of CBD, as those are all very impactful parts of FM.

*Disclaimer* We are not posing CBD as a cure, or even a possible treatment for your condition. If you are looking for professional medical advice, consult your physician. The purpose of this article is to inform and educate, not to give medical advice.

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