Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by chronic widespread pain that often co-exists with sleep problems and extreme fatigue. It's both difficult to treat and impossible to cure, so sufferers often have a lifetime of difficult symptoms to deal with. Reports estimate that approximately 2% of the population suffers with this condition, making it one of the more prevalent maladies represented in today's culture.
Unfortunately, sufferers report a high disability level, and poor health-related quality of life issues. A list of typical symptoms for the 5 million Americans who suffer with fibromyalgia includes deep tissue pain, fatigue, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and sleeplessness.
Typically, sufferers are prescribed one of only three medications approved specifically for the treatment of fibromyalgia; Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella. Though these drugs generate billions of dollars for their parent pharmaceutical companies, those using the medications report that they don't work. (1)
In a 2014 survey, 1,339 fibromyalgia sufferers were asked to rate the effectiveness of their prescription pain reliever. Only 8% said it was very effective, 32% said it helped a little, but 60% said it does not help at all. (2)
When looking at these numbers, it's no wonder that sufferers have been left to their own devices to find some other method of safely and effectively reducing the wide range of fibromyalgia symptoms.
The 1,300+ participants reported these additional findings relating to fibromyalgia:
The survey results clearly indicate that the symptoms of fibromyalgia are both debilitating and long-lasting. It is also clear that many questions remain within the medical community about how to diagnosis and treat the disease. Many survey participants reported that the disorder had taken over their lives, leaving them socially isolated, fatigued and in constant pain.
Given the severity and duration of fibromyalgia symptoms, many have been exploring alternate treatments that might restore functionality and allow sufferers to live a somewhat normal life symptom-free. One such treatment with great results is the use of cannabinoid oil, also commonly known as CBD.
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) underlies the pathophysiology of migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other functional conditions. The integration of fibromyalgia symptoms with endocannabinoid function within the brain is complex, because there are numerous relationships in play.
The US National Library of Medicine describes some of the common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying CECD condition may be treatable with the use of cannabinoids (CBD), a naturally occurring extract that has a profound effect on functions of the brain, particularly relating to neuropathic disorders. (3)
Within the brain, there is a defined relationship between anandamide (AEA), 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors. These super-highways support the therapeutic regulation that prevents certain specific symptoms present with fibromyalgia. When these pathways become inflamed or blocked, then symptoms can manifest within the body in a variety of ways. AEA is active in the gray matter of the brain, which is where migraines originate. CBD demonstrates dopamine-blocking and anti-inflammatory effects. CBD modulates glutamatergic neurotransmission via NMDA receptors, which means it evens out the firing of pain transmitters.
Fibromyalgia is conceived as a central sensitization state with secondary hyperalgesia. CBD has demonstrated the ability to block spinal, peripheral and gastrointestinal mechanisms responsible for the pain associated with migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS and other related disorders.
A small study of 28 fibromyalgia sufferers yielded another set of encouraging data in using CBD for treatment.
The aim of this study was to describe patterns of CBD use and its associated benefits, with an emphasis on quality of life issues. The quality of life of fibromyalgia suffers who used CBD and then some who did not was closely compared. (4) Participants recorded information on a specific questionnaire, as well as reported general perceived benefits of CBD on a range of symptoms using a 100-mm visual analogue analysis scale (VAS). Both CBD users and non-users completed the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the Short Form 36 Health Survey.
The amount and frequency of CBD administered depended upon the severity of the symptoms, and was determined by those monitoring the study protocols. In two hours following CBD administration, VAS scores showed a statistically significant (p<0.001) reduction of pain and stiffness, enhancement of relaxation, and an increase in somnolence and feeling of well-being. The mental health component score was significantly higher (p<0.05) in CBD users than in non-users.
The results of this study were encouraging enough that additional data should be gathered to further quantify the positive effect of CBD on fibromyalgia sufferers. Across the board, those using CBD had significant reductions in every category of pain and discomfort that was measured compared to the control group. This is great news for those suffering with debilitating symptoms.
The body typically makes pain relievers called endorphins, as well as other substances that trigger pain relief within the endocannabinoid system. This system seems to play a role in many processes in the body, including how we modulate pain. CBD mimics very closely the chemical compounds produced naturally in the body, making it highly effective in the treatment of pain typically associated with fibromyalgia. (5)
Fibromyalgia patients typically experience body wide pain, but they must often take multiple drugs for a range of symptoms, like difficulty sleeping, restless legs syndrome, depression, and anxiety. However, CBD treats the full range of symptoms, and patients are seeing results.
CNN featured one case study on their website of interest to those suffering with this disease. (6) Lynda, a 48 year old mother of three who lives in upstate New York, got a diagnosis of fibromyalgia in 2000. While she did try some prescriptions to manage her pain, she had great success with CBD.
"I would use CBD when the burning pains started down my spine or right arm, and shortly after, I found I could continue with housework, and actually get more done," says Lynda.
Fibromyalgia is notoriously difficult to treat, with around 30% getting any relief at all from the available drugs on the market. According to Dr. Stuart Silverman, a rheumatologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, "My patients ask me about it (CBD) all the time. Historically and anecdotally, CBD has been shown to be an effective pain killer." (7)
A second case study is articulated by Teri Robnett. A 1987 car accident triggered her fibromyalgia, she later learned than an endocannabinoid deficiency could be to blame. For years she took doctor-prescribed pharmaceuticals, but she detested the side effects and was concerned about drug interactions. After years of suffering, in 2011 she quit all her prescription drugs and focused exclusively on CBD.
Robnett said at first it took some trial and error to get the proper dosage and frequency, but it didn't take long for her to become convinced that CBD produces far superior results to drugs. She also noticed that it helped considerable with her chronic fatigue. (8)
Given the complex interaction of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, it's no wonder that conventional drugs are failing. CBD, with over 60 compounds present in its structure, has the ability to regulate the wide variety of symptoms typical in the daily life of a fibromyalgia sufferer.
It makes sense for those suffering from the complex intertwined symptoms of fibromyalgia to seek one source of relief for the full range of symptoms. CBD could be that single source of relief. As the data continues to come in, a stronger and stronger scientific case for CBD use is being built.
But the strongest case of all is when real life fibromyalgia sufferers like Lynda and Teri Robnett, who once suffered debilitating symptoms, are able to lead happy and productive lives because of the relief CBD affords.
1 - "Fibromyalgia, Pain Medication," nationalpainreport.com (April 21, 2014).
2 - "Fibromyalgia, Pain Medication," nationalpainreport.com (April 21, 2014).
3 - Russo, EB, "Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency: Therapeutic Benefits of CBD in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, IBS and Other Treatment-Resistent Conditions," US National Library of Medicine (April 29, 2008).
4 - - Fiz, Duran, Capella, Carbonell, Farre, "CBD Use In Patients with Fibromyalgia: Effect On Symptoms Relief and Health-Related Quality of Life," US National Library of Medicine (April 21, 2011).
5 - Harding, Ann, "CBD May Help Fibromyalgia Pain," CNN Health.com (February 22, 2010).
6 - Harding, A, "CBD May Help Fibromyalgia Pain," CNN Health.com (February 22, 2010).
7 - Harding, A, "CBD May Help Fibromyalgia Pain," CNN Health.com (February 22, 2010).
8 - Kossen, Jeremy, "Can CBD Treat Fibromyalgia Better than Prescription Drugs?" Leafly.com.