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Can Medical Marijuana Help Treat Fibromyalgia?

December 19, 2019 • • Medical Marijuana

A growing body of evidence suggests that medical marijuana can help effectively manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder thought to be related to abnormalities in how the brain processes pain signals. It’s a common condition affecting an estimated 10 million Americans, with symptoms that include widespread pain, fatigue, nausea, and difficulties with sleep, concentration, and memory. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. In some cases, the condition can develop following significant bodily or psychological stress — such as surgery or major infection — though in many cases the symptoms develop gradually over time. At present there’s no cure for the condition, but medications like pain relievers and anti-seizure drugs can help manage symptoms. However, since medical marijuana can be used to treat chronic pain and epilepsy, interest has been on the rise to determine whether cannabis might offer another way of managing fibromyalgia — with far milder side effects than opioids. This has to do in part with how the compounds in marijuana react with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies.

What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

Did you know that our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids, the same chemical compounds found in medical marijuana products? Scientists discovered this in the 1990s, which led to another discovery: in addition to the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems, our bodies also include the endocannabinoid system.  Made up of neurotransmitters throughout the body, the endocannabinoid system is thought to help maintain harmony in the body in response to environmental changes, and is involved in a number of bodily processes, including: 
  • Energy and metabolism
  • How the immune system functions
  • How pain is processed
  • Memory
  • Sleep
  • Response to stress 
  • Regulating body temperature

Cannabinoids and Fibromyalgia

So, how is this system connected to fibromyalgia? An often-cited 2004 study proposed the idea that fibromyalgia — and some related conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and painful bladder syndrome — are all “clinical endocannabinoid deficiencies.” This means that for people affected by these ailments, the endocannabinoid system isn’t functioning as it should.  A survey of the research that’s been done on using marijuana to treat fibromyalgia suggests that endocannabinoid deficiencies are related to the condition. Treating fibromyalgia with medical cannabis can help improve sleep and reduce stiffness and inflammation (including myofascial inflammation, which may be related to fibromyalgia). Further, medical marijuana can block pain receptors, thereby significantly reducing pain. While more research still needs to be done, there’s a growing body of evidence indicating that using cannabinoids to treat conditions associated with endocannabinoid deficiency can be remarkably effective. 

How Lifestyle Changes Can Affect Fibromyalgia

In addition to medical marijuana or medication, there are a number of lifestyle adjustments that can also help manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Gentle exercise, such as walking, swimming, or pilates, can help lower pain, and other activities like meditation, massage, or breathwork that reduce stress can also be beneficial. If you’re curious about medical marijuana and how it can help manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia and other conditions, contact Lakewood Medical Clinic to schedule a consultation. Our team of trained specialists is ready to talk with you about the different types of cannabis treatments available, and how they can help treat a variety of common ailments.