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
- Response to stress
- Regulating body temperature