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Does CBD oil help with Fibromyalgia?

Dr. Chinenye Callista Emecheta M. Sc. - April 14th 2020

Does CBD help with Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is one of the most common long-term pain conditions. This disorder affects an estimated average of 10 million individuals in the United States, and an estimated 3-6% of the world population.(1) It is a chronic pain disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain that is associated with fatigue, sleep problems, mood and memory issues.

Scientists believe that fibromyalgia heightens painful sensations by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals. The symptoms of fibromyalgia sometimes begin after a physical trauma, infection, surgery, or significant psychological stress. In some cases, the symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no particular trigger.

While there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications are available which can help control the symptoms. Measures like exercise, relaxation, and stress-reduction can also help. Laboratory tests may be required to rule out or diagnose any co-existing conditions such as lupus, thyroid hormone resistance, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia 

The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary in intensity and some of them include:

• Widespread aching pain; pain associated with fibromyalgia is often described as a constant, dull ache which typically would have lasted for at least 3 months.
• Fatigue
• Sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea, and/or non-refreshing sleep.
• Cognitive difficulties like memory problems or poor thinking abilities Stiffness

Additional symptoms may include:

• Depression or anxiety
• Migraine headaches,
• Tension headaches
• Pelvic pain
• Irritable or overactive bladder Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• TMJ disorders
• Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), etc. 

While there is no evidence of exactly what causes this condition, scientists are in general agreement that fibromyalgia is a multi-dimensional disorder with some identified risk factors such as gender, stress level, age, and genetics.

Multi-disciplinary approaches for the management and relief of symptoms are most often recommended. Various treatments can be used to alleviate the symptoms and manage pain. Medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and soft exercises are the most commonly employed modalities.

One of the more recent solutions for relieving the symptoms of fibromyalgia is CBD oil.

For a long time, fibromyalgia sufferers have looked for alternative ways of healing to reduce their pain and in recent years, the non-psychoactive CBD oil has made its debut into the world as a potential medicinal solution to chronic pain, including a multitude of other conditions. 

What Is CBD (Cannabidiol) Oil? 

Cannabidiol is a chemical compound made from the cannabis plant.

It has no psychoactive properties, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the other byproduct of cannabis that is responsible for the 'high' associated with marijuana.

On the other hand, cannabis that is grown for hemp is generally richer in CBD than THC, and this is where CBD is derived from.

Scientists believe that CBD activates serotonin receptors and thus plays a role in the following:

• Pain perception
• Body temperature maintenance
• Reduction of inflammation
• Recent studies also suggest that CBD also aids in easing the symptoms of depression and may prevent the symptoms of psychosis.

These are the benefits that make CBD an appealing alternative treatment method for chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia.

Even though CBD is still a novel treatment for any illness, and a lot of research still needs to be done, current scientific discoveries, however, have been positive.

In particular, most of the research done so far has focused on the effects and effectiveness in the treatment of chronic pain.

CBD oil for fibromyalgia: What research says

Generally, CBD research is still in its infancy, therefore research on CBD for fibromyalgia can be taken to be still embryonic.

There are just a couple of studies which directly researched on the effectiveness of CBD on fibromyalgia:

In 2009, a review found that CBD could be used in the relief of neuropathic pain. The study concluded that cannabinoids like CBD might be a beneficial adjunct treatment to other pain medications.(2)

In 2011, a study of 56 people who had fibromyalgia was conducted, with most of the participants being women. After 2 hours of using cannabis, the users experienced various benefits like decreased pain and stiffness as well as increased sleepiness. They were also noted to have slightly higher mental health scores compared to the non-users.(3)

In a 2017 human study, oral intake of 300mg of CBD led to a significant reduction in anxiety and cortisol levels. A lot of times, chronic pain is often associated with other comorbidities like anxiety or depression. These are present in almost 80% of people suffering from chronic pain. For fibromyalgia patients, this co-existence of pain and depression is especially true. The use of CBD can help to alleviate anxiety in this group.(4)

In 2018, a research published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology suggested that medicinal cannabis could represent an effective treatment for the disorder. One of the major areas affected by fibromyalgia is the brain and CBD is shown to possess neuroprotective properties.5

A Dutch study carried out in 2019 assessed the effect of cannabis on 20 women who had fibromyalgia. During the course of the study, each of the participants received 4 different types of cannabis (placebo which contained no CBD or THC, Bediol with high amounts of both CBD and THC, Bedrolite with high amounts of CBD and low amounts of THC, Bedrocan with low amounts of CBD and high amounts of THC).

The use of Bediol or Bedrocan, which both represent high-THC varieties, was seen to significantly improve the pressure pain thresholds as compared to the placebo (a 30 percent reduction in pain threshold).6

A 2019 Israeli study of hundreds of individuals with fibromyalgia who were observed over a duration of at least 6 months showed that by the 6 months follow up, significantly less number of participants still reported high pain levels.7

CBD Oil For Fibromyalgia; How Does It Work? 

While it can't be said with certainty how CBD helps to reduce certain symptoms of this condition, many theories, however, are currently being researched.

Pain relief

A potential explanation for its pain-relieving abilities may lie in its effects on the brain. CBD might act by interrupting the nerve pathways in charge of sending pain signals from the brain to other parts of the body and vice versa.

In a 2017 paper that was published in Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets, it was suggested that CBD possibly diminishes the activity of brain cells (called glia), which results in central sensitization.

This central sensitization is a major feature of fibromyalgia as well as other central sensitivity syndromes like chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, etc.(8)

Anti-inflammatory action

Also, several studies have suggested that CBD can fight against inflammation.

Even though fibromyalgia isn't currently classed as an inflammatory disorder, research does suggest that at least some cases may be associated with inflammation of a body-wide connective tissue (the fascia).

In this case, the use of CBD oil for fibromyalgia could be beneficial.

Associated Benefits

In 2016, another review that was published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research showed evidence of CBD's effectiveness in migraine and irritable bowel syndrome, both related to fibromyalgia. It was also stated that some cannabis-based treatments seemed to be effective for fibromyalgia.9

Can CBD Oil be used safely?

There may not be enough research on the exact effects of CBD. However, it has been researched for safety many times.

All the conducted studies and trials have confirmed that CBD is completely safe for humans and animals alike.

It has very low levels of toxicity, one of the reasons it’s being pushed as a potential alternative for managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The traditional options for the treatment of fibromyalgia all have major long-term health effects and CBD is better in this regard.

Asides being non-addictive and non-toxic, its users have reported calming effects.

Bottomline

Fibromyalgia is a major contributor to the current pain epidemic in the United States.

Present treatment modalities are simply not effective enough for most sufferers, and as a result, there's an enormous financial incentive to find a more effective alternative that's better at relieving pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

There's also the problem of an opioid addiction and overdose epidemic to consider. Several studies have shown that when the legalization of marijuana is done in any state, it leads to a drop in the number of opioid prescriptions.

Fibromyalgia is a challenging chronic disorder and CBD does not promise a cure people for people who suffer from it.

However, a lot of people have tried CBD and reported positive results. It is best to combine CBD with other prescribed medications in order to get the best results. Ensure that you consult your doctor before you start using it, however.

With anticipated legal changes in-store and more research on the subject, things are expected to change rapidly when it comes to the use of CBD oil for fibromyalgia and indeed, other cannabis-based remedies.

Dr. Chinenye Callista Emecheta M. Sc.

Dr. Callista is a Medical Doctor and UNICAF Scholar with proven experience in the health sector. She is a public health enthusiast who loves to write. She sees her passion for medical writing as an opportunity to more efficiently reach as many people as possible in different parts of the globe.

REFERENCES

1. http://www.fmaware.org/about-fibromyalgia/prevalence/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3728280/
3. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018440
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28553229
5. https://www.sativaisticated.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Medical-Cannabis-for-the-Treatment-of-Fibromyalgia-Medical-Cannabis-Medical-Marijuana-Research-for-Autoimmune-Disease-Fibromyalgia.pdf
6.https://journals.lww.com/pain/fulltext/2019/04000/An_experimental_randomized_study_on_the_analgesic.11.aspx
7. https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/8/6/807/htm
8. http://doi.org/10.1080/14728222.2017.1353603
9. http://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0009

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