Medical cannabis for pain relief has gradually become an accepted alternative treatment to opioids, and today, it’s estimated that around 62% of all medical cannabis users are being treated for pain.
This includes chronic pain as a result of past accidents or medical conditions like arthritis. Another common cause of chronic pain is fibromyalgia, which is an illness that affects 2% of the US population, generally those between the ages of 20-50.
Fibromyalgia mainly affects women and it can be inherited; unfortunately, there’s no known cure for it. This is made worse by the fact that one of its trademark symptoms is widespread, chronic pain.
Left untreated, the pain may get worse over time, to the point where it may become excruciating.
Aside from the pain itself, fibromyalgia may even cause memory problems and it can affect how you sleep.
What’s promising is that recent studies have demonstrated that medical cannabis may help fibromyalgia patients manage their symptoms, specifically the chronic pain it causes.
How does fibromyalgia affect the body?
Before getting into how medical cannabis for pain relief works for this condition, it’s important to understand how the latter affects the body.
According to researchers, fibromyalgia magnifies pain by affecting the way the brain and the spinal cord perceive it.
Why this condition occurs is not very well known but it’s believed that its onset could be the result of physical trauma from injuries, surgeries, or even infections. The pain caused by fibromyalgia may persist as a dull ache for months at a time and it can happen in virtually any part of the body.
In certain cases, the pain from fibromyalgia may affect a patient’s sleep and in light of that, it’s common to feel fatigued all the time.
Fibromyalgia may also cause cognitive issues in certain individuals, a condition some call “fibro fog”. This makes it difficult for patients to focus and concentrate.
In many cases, fibromyalgia may even coexist with other medical conditions such as irritable bowel disorder, painful bladder syndrome, and postural tachycardia syndrome.
While it’s not life-threatening, it can make even the most menial tasks challenging, and because of this, fibromyalgia patients may benefit from exploring various analgesic options.
Today, patients are beginning to use medical cannabis as a way of treating pain.
How does medical cannabis treat symptoms of fibromyalgia?
The endocannabinoid system is a network in our bodies that reacts to cannabinoids. It’s believed that this system is involved in several important processes such as pain processing, sleep, and memory—some of which may be affected by fibromyalgia.
Medical cannabis contains two major components, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While medical cannabis may contain up to 120 compounds, these two, in particular, have been observed to play the biggest role in pain relief.
Both CBD and THC bind with cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2 receptors, providing relief from the pain caused by fibromyalgia.
CBD may be more effective at relieving pain caused by inflammation, and THC, on the other hand, may relieve neuropathic pain as well as central pain. One major difference between the two compounds is that THC has psychoactive properties, which may cause users to experience a sense of euphoria.
Given that different kinds of medical cannabis may have different levels of CBD and THC, it’s important to remember that high levels of THC may not be suitable for first-time users.
Fibromyalgia, as mentioned earlier, may also cause sleep disturbances in certain individuals and research has shown that CBD may help patients enjoy a restful sleep.
Medical cannabis for pain relief—an emerging treatment option for fibromyalgia patients
Despite the medical advances we’ve made over the years, fibromyalgia is still a difficult condition to live with, forcing many people to turn to prescription medication to find relief for their symptoms.
Today, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis may provide similar benefits without the common side effects of opioids and other mainstream treatments.
Given that this treatment option may not be suitable for everyone, however, consulting a doctor or a professional CBD consultant is critical prior to using medical marijuana.