It’s official: medical marijuana is becoming part of mainstream American culture. 32 US states plus Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have legalized medical marijuana. That’s not to mention the handful of states that have completely legalized marijuana.
You may have heard of medical marijuana’s range of benefits. After all, this natural substance may help with everything from unwinding after a long day to preventing seizures. Yet, you may not know about the connection between fibromyalgia and marijuana.
Lucky for you, we’re telling you everything you need to know about fibromyalgia, its symptoms, and how marijuana can help. Check out this guide to learn more.
Fibromyalgia Stats You Need to Know
Fibromyalgia is among the most common pain conditions, affecting over 10 million people in the US alone.
Somewhere between 75% and 90% of fibromyalgia cases occur in women, especially as they age. Sadly, fibromyalgia often has a genetic component. That means most people have little control over the etiology and symptoms of this condition.
Fibromyalgia Etiology and Symptoms
Fibromyalgia isn’t completely understood but the latest theories suggest multiple causes. Namely, genetics combined with infection, stress, or trauma. While genes may predispose a person to fibromyalgia, they may not develop the condition without one or more of the other three triggers.
The hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia is pain. The condition usually manifests as regions of pain or a dull ache in specific regions of the body. People who do suffer from fibromyalgia may experience additional symptoms like:
- Difficulty focusing
- Lower abdominal pain
- Dry eyes
- Bladder problems
The good news is that there are treatments for this condition. We explore a few of them next.
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
While there is no cure for this condition, health care providers have come up with a few ways to treat it. Namely, via medication, lifestyle changes, and self-care.
Lifestyle changes like getting more exercise have been shown to reduce stress on painful trigger points. Similarly, attending regular physical therapy sessions can improve strength for more comfortable walking and sitting.
Medications for fibromyalgia are intended to do two things: alleviate pain and improve quality of life. That’s why pain medications (i.e., over-the-counter pain relievers), anti-depressants, and anti-seizure medications are the three most commonly prescribed medications to treat this condition.
Yet, many patients report the ineffectiveness of over-the-counter pain medications and the dangerous side effects of both anti-depressants and anticonvulsants. Today, people are looking for a better, more natural way to treat their symptoms.
That’s where medical marijuana for fibromyalgia comes in.
How Can Medical Marijuana Help Fibromyalgia?
In 2011, a reputable journal published a study about the benefits of medical marijuana for fibromyalgia symptoms. The researchers wanted to see if marijuana could alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Meanwhile, they also looked at marijuana’s effect on participants’ quality of life.
The results? We get into three of the study’s findings next.
Marijuana and Fibromyalgia Pain
In the 2011 study and a subsequent 2017 literature review, researchers found substantial evidence that medical marijuana can treat chronic pain. For example, the chronic pain symptoms that are seen with fibromyalgia patients.
That’s because the cannabinoids found in marijuana act on the body’s endocannabinoid receptors.
Among other functions, these receptors are associated with pain. More specifically, the endocannabinoid system regulates pain signals from the body to the nerves of the spinal cord, and ultimately to the brain.
Using marijuana activates these receptors, which reduces these pain signals.
We need more research to confirm the benefits of medical cannabis for chronic pain. Still, these results offer a promising relief for individuals suffering from fibromyalgia pain.
Marijuana and Sleeplessness
In the same 2011 study mentioned above, participants reported significant improvements in relaxation and tiredness after using marijuana. This study included 56 total patients, half of which had never used cannabis before.
Considering insomnia and restlessness symptoms are common among people with fibromyalgia, this was a promising finding.
Still, you may wonder: how does this work? In addition to regulating the pain response, the body’s endocannabinoid system also influences metabolism and the stress response. Both of these functions have implications for sleep and relaxation.
For example, metabolism determines how much of the food you eat is transformed into energy. If this process gets compromised, you may experience lower levels of energy. Similarly, when the brain’s stress response is too high, you may have trouble relaxing.
The cannabinoids in marijuana are known to influence both of these processes. Again, more studies need to look at the direct relationship between marijuana and metabolism and marijuana and stress.
Marijuana for General Well Being
One final finding of the 2011 study involved participants’ reports of feelings of well-being. Feelings of well-being are used to measure quality of life. If you remember, this is the second goal of fibromyalgia medication.
The study took measures of both self-reported well-being and mental health. They found that those who used marijuana scored significantly higher than control groups in these two measures.
Little is known about marijuana’s exact relationship with well-being.
There is good news, though. Marijuana is quickly gaining legal status in the US. That means there will be fewer barriers when researching its benefits for fibromyalgia in the future.
The Final Word on Fibromyalgia and Marijuana: Does Medical Marijuana Really Work for Fibromyalgia?
Here’s the final word on fibromyalgia and marijuana. Nothing has been proved definitively. Still, marijuana has been shown to significantly improve fibromyalgia symptoms in multiple studies.