CBD In the Treatment of Fibromyalgia

According to WebMD, Fibromyalgia is a common condition that affects the bones and muscles, causing chronic joint pain and fatigue. Although it is quite widespread, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as its symptoms fit into a lot of disease profiles. Currently, there is no cure for fibromyalgia, however, patients can live with it by combining medication, exercise, and healthy nutrition.

There has been some encouraging preliminary data concerning the use of CBD oil for fibromyalgia, although research is far from conclusive. Studies suggest fibromyalgia might have something to do with an endocannabinoid deficiency within the human body. Therefore, it is believed that CBD can help regulate the symptoms caused by fibromyalgia.

How Many People Suffer From Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is one of the most widespread chronic pain conditions in the world. According to FMaware.org, the disorder affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. alone, and about 3-6% of the world population.

Women are much more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia. According to the same organization, around 75-90% of all patients are women. The disease does not make a distinction among ethnic groups, as it occurs to people of various ethnicities. FM is hereditary and often runs in the family lines.

Most people get diagnosed with fibromyalgia between 20 and 50 years old. However, the chance of suffering from this condition rises with age. It is estimated that by age 80, nearly 8% of all adults meet the American College of Rheumatology classification of fibromyalgia.

Types of Fibromyalgia Pain

There is only one type of fibromyalgia, but the chronic pain caused by it is medically classified into three major types:

  • Hyperalgesia
  • Allodynia
  • Painful Paresthesia

Hyperalgesia

Hyperalgesia comes from the Greek words “hyper,” and “algos,” meaning “extreme pain.” This definition is the medical term for the intensely painful feeling that FM patients feel. In these cases, the brains of patients receive normal pain signals, but amplify their intensity, making them more severe than normal. Hyperalgesia is the focus of much of the drugs used for FM pain management.

Allodynia

Allodynia is the pain caused when mild or minimal pressure causes pain. This can be pressure from clothing or even a gentle touch. Patients have described it as similar to a bad sunburn. Allodynia is a hypersensitive reaction that results from the central sensitization that FM causes. Although it is quite rare, allodynia is also associated with other conditions, like neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles), and migraines.

Painful Paresthesia

Paresthesia is a nerve pain that feels like pins and needles prickling the body. Sometimes, this sensation can become painful and is closely associated with FM conditions. On many occasions, doctors may try to alleviate the symptoms using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

What Causes Fibromyalgia

Pain signals travel to the brain center through the nervous system and the spinal cord. The intense, unpleasant sensation is the way your body tells you that something is going wrong. Eventually, as the problem secedes, so does the pain. However, things are a bit more complicated with fibromyalgia patients.

According to WebMD, fibromyalgia causes unending pain without stimulation. Researchers believe that this is caused by a malfunction in the communication between the brain and the spinal cord. In cases of fibromyalgia, the patient may have an abnormally high amount of cells that carry pain signals and fewer cells that actually soothe pain.

However, we are still unsure as to why people get fibromyalgia. Researchers suggest some things that can trigger the disease, although the list is not exhaustive.

Genes

Genetics seem to be largely responsible for the development of fibromyalgia. The disease runs in families and parents are likely to pass on genes that cause hypersensitivity to pain to their children.

Other diseases

Diseases that cause chronic pain like arthritis can make matters worse for patients with fibromyalgia.

Abusive Behaviors

People who have suffered from abusive behaviors are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. This can happen because abuse can rewire the way our brain reacts to pain signals and stress.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic stress disorder often occurs after extreme events, like exposure to violence, war, or rape.

Gender

Almost 90% of all patients are women, leading some researchers to the hypothesis that this has something to do with the way men and women handle pain.

Anxiety and depression

See our articles on anxiety and depression for more information on these afflictions.

Lack of physical activity

Although a sedentary lifestyle won’t directly contribute to the development of fibromyalgia, it will certainly worsen the symptoms, as muscles get weaker.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Symptoms of fibromyalgia vary from person to person, although the common denominator is consistent and widespread pain. The intensity of the symptoms relies on many factors, such as stress levels, weather changes, and frequency of physical activity.

Here are the main symptoms of fibromyalgia:

Pain

This is one of the staple symptoms of fibromyalgia. It can appear anywhere and it usually feels like an ache, a burn, or a stabbing pain.

Hypersensitivity

Apart from causing pain, fibromyalgia can also make patients extremely pain sensitive. Hyperalgesia and allodynia are common occurrences among fibromyalgia patients and can make even the slightest touch unbearable due to the extreme pain.

Stiffness

Fibromyalgia affects the muscles and can make patients feel stiff when they remain in the same position for a long time. This can cause muscle spasms and twitches.

Fatigue

FM can cause feelings of extreme fatigue, even when the activity is not that demanding. Often, extreme exhaustion can cause effects similar to illness, draining all energy from the patient.

Poor sleep quality

Sleep is also affected by fibromyalgia. The condition can prevent patients from entering a deep sleep state, meaning that they will wake up tired regardless of how many hours they’ve slept.

Cognitive problems

Fibromyalgia can lead to a variety of cognitive issues, involving problems with concentration and learning.

Headaches and Migraines

Patients who have experienced prolonged periods of pain in the neck and shoulders might also be plagued by frequent headaches that can range from migraines to nausea.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Fibromyalgia patients might develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive condition that causes bloating and pain in the stomach.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms that people with fibromyalgia sometimes experience include:

  • Dizziness
  • Unusually painful periods for women
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed

If a patient has been experiencing frequent and inexplicable pain for more than three months, then doctors will examine them for fibromyalgia. Since there are no tests that can confirm fibromyalgia, doctors will try to reach a conclusion by eliminating all other conditions with similar options. That’s why the first step will always be a blood test that includes:

  • Complete blood count
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
  • Rheumatoid factor
  • Thyroid function tests

How Harmful Is Fibromyalgia

Generally speaking, fibromyalgia is not a life-threatening disease. However, patients must learn to live with extreme and widespread pain throughout their life. By following a carefully crafted regiment of regular exercise and medical treatment, patients can see the symptoms of the disease drastically reduced. On the other hand, patients who do not follow some kind of treatment or don’t exercise enough have a higher rate of disability than the general population.

How Is Fibromyalgia Treated

There is no one-size-fits-all solution in fibromyalgia treatment. Usually, each symptom needs a different approach, so a combination of medication and lifestyle changes usually works wonders for the lives of the patients.

Medications

Medications can relieve pain and improve sleep patterns. Here are some of the most common types used in fibromyalgia treatment:

Pain relievers

Over-the-counter pills such as Tylenol, Advil, Aleve are usually recommended for FM patients. In more serious cases, doctors might suggest prescription pain relievers.

Antidepressants

These medications can help ease the pain and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia.

Anti-seizure drugs

Drugs that are used in epilepsy treatment are often used as pain regulators. Pregabalin (Lyrica) is the first FDA-approved drug for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

Therapy

There are certain kinds of therapies that can help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as:

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy can help patients build a stronger and more flexible muscle system.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapists can help patients regulate their work environment to avoid further strain on their body.

Counseling

If the roots of fibromyalgia are psychological, counseling is suggested to patients. Trained psychotherapists can guide them through the problem and help them develop better coping strategies.

Lifestyle Changes

A healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone of successfully living with fibromyalgia. Some of the most common lifestyle shifts for patients are:

  • Stress reduction
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Regular Exercise
  • Healthy nutrition

How Does CBD Help Treat Fibromyalgia

CBD oil is the subject of intense research regarding its effectiveness for a multitude of medical conditions that affect the nervous system and the brain. There has been some encouraging preliminary data concerning the use of CBD oil for fibromyalgia, although research is far from conclusive.

A study conducted in 2011 presents some interesting insight about CBD and fibromyalgia. In this experiment, 28 FM patients were administered different doses of CBD-rich cannabis and then were tested for pain levels. Cannabis users referred different duration of drug consumption; the route of administration was smoking (54%), oral (46%) and combined (43%). Many of the test subjects reported that their pain levels had dropped after just two hours, leading the scientists to claim that “The use of cannabis was associated with beneficial effects on some FM symptoms.” They do point out, however, that further study is needed to fully determine if that positive interaction comes with no side-effects.

CBD is very popular as a chronic pain and inflammation treatment. Most users believe it is a useful alternative to addictive opioid prescription drugs. Studies conducted as early as 2009 have shown that CBD can also be used to battle neuropathic pain and pain from nerve injury.

How Does CBD Work for Fibromyalgia Patients

There is some data that suggests fibromyalgia might have something to do with an endocannabinoid deficiency within the human body. CBD interacts precisely with our endocannabinoid system, interfering with the body’s process of endocannabinoid breakdown. Therefore, it is believed that CBD can help regulate the symptoms caused by fibromyalgia.

Although CBD is not yet an FDA-approved treatment, users confirm its therapeutic effects. A questionnaire-based study published in 2011 compared the answers of patients that were cannabis users with people who didn’t use CBD. The study found “a statistically significant reduction of pain and stiffness, enhancement of relaxation, and an increase in somnolence and feeling of well being.”

Another survey conducted by the National Pain Foundation reached out to over 1,300 FM patients and found that “medical cannabis is far more effective at treating symptoms of fibromyalgia than any of the three prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the disorder,” as 62% of patients reported that medical cannabis makes them feel better.

Studies on CBD and Fibromyalgia

Additional Sources of Information

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The research and talent that went into this article and infographic was made possible by a grant from High Country Group, LLC. Visit High Country’s CBD website for top-quality CBD products.

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The statements in this document have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before beginning any treatment regimen.

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