- General Health
CBD Oil for Fibromyalgia: Does It Offer Hope?
According to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), an estimated 10 million Americans have the condition. It disproportionately affects women; up to 90% of FM patients are female. The disease is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. However, its incidence rises with age. So much so that up to 8% of Americans aged 80+ meet the American College of Rheumatology’s classification of the illness.
It is a painful condition, and patients are turning to CBD for fibromyalgia. In general, drugs such as antidepressants and pain relievers emphasize reducing symptoms and improving quality of life, but there is a growing belief that CBD oil for fibromyalgia performs the same functions.
One thing an FM patient does not want is to develop an addiction to opioids. Misuse of these powerful drugs is prevalent, and over 100 people die from an opioid overdose each day in America. CBD for fibromyalgia could help reduce the pain you feel, with minimal side effects, and little risk of addiction. This guide looks at the potential for using CBD if you have fibromyalgia.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
“Is fibromyalgia an autoimmune disease?” is a common question. The answer is ‘no.’ FM is not classified as an autoimmune disease because it doesn’t result in inflammation. Also, researchers have not found evidence of fibromyalgia causing damage to bodily tissues. It is occasionally confused with autoimmune diseases because it has some similar symptoms. Indeed, FM sometimes occurs in concert with an autoimmune disease.
A more accurate fibromyalgia definition is that it’s a condition that causes chronic pain in the body. The precise cause is unknown at the time of writing. However, many experts believe it causes the brain to sense a higher level of pain. In some patients, FM symptoms only begin after experiencing significant psychological stress, physical trauma, or surgery. In other individuals, symptoms develop and accumulate over time with no known trigger.
A significant proportion of those with FM also have conditions such as anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, and tension headaches.
Typically, when you get injured, nerve signals travel from the problem area through the spinal cord to the brain. Your brain then senses these signals as pain and warns you that something is amiss. When you heal, you feel less pain and it goes away in time. If you have fibromyalgia, however, you feel pain even when you’re not injured or sick. It doesn’t go away, and doctors are not sure why.
One possible reason is that there is a glitch in the way the brain handles pain signals. FM patients might have more cells carrying pain signals than average. They may also have fewer cells that reduce pain signals. As a result, pain signals are always ‘on,’ and minor bumps cause way more pain than they should.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The list of possible fibromyalgia symptoms is lengthy, although widespread pain is the most common. Patients often describe it as a dull ache that lasts for a minimum of three months. The pain is ‘widespread’ if it happens on both sides of the body, below and above the waist.
Fatigue is also one of the most prevalent signs of fibromyalgia. FM patients often feel tired when they wake up, even if they sleep for long periods. One of the reasons for this issue is because patients have their sleep interrupted by pain. Sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome occur with regularity in FM patients.
Possible cognitive difficulties such as an inability to pay attention or focus also rear their head. This symptom is sometimes called ‘fibro fog.’ FM can co-exist with other painful symptoms such as:
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Migraine headaches
- Painful bladder syndrome
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Unfortunately, physicians have little idea as to the precise cause(s) of fibromyalgia. Several issues could result in problems with the body’s pain signals. It is also possible that several reasons cause FM. Examples include:
- Genetic Factors: There is a suggestion that FM runs in families. For instance, your parents could pass on genes that increase your sensitivity to pain. Some genes increase the likelihood of depression or anxiety.
- Other Diseases: An illness such as an infection or arthritis makes it more likely that you get FM.
- Emotional or Physical Abuse: If you were abused as a child, there is a bigger chance of developing fibromyalgia as an adult. One reason is that abuse impacts the way the brain handles stress and pain.
- PTSD: Many people with posttraumatic stress disorder develop their condition after an awful event, such as a car accident. There is a link between a traumatic event and FM in some patients.
- Gender: You are anywhere from seven to nine times more likely to get FM as a woman. There are potential societal reasons for this statistic. Men and women react differently to pain, but society also has different expectations of how each gender handles pain.
- Anxiety and Depression: There is a link between certain mood disorders and FM. However, there is no hard evidence to suggest they cause the condition.
- Lack of Exercise: Not moving enough is a potential reason for developing FM! The condition is far more common in people who don’t exercise than in physically active people.
Ways to Treat Fibromyalgia Pain
FM treatment usually involves a mixture of self-care and medication. The goal is to improve general health and reduce the impact of symptoms. There is no single treatment on the market that aids with every symptom. The primary reasons to use drugs for FM are to improve sleep and decrease pain. Options include:
- Antidepressants: Drugs such as Savella and Cymbalta help with fatigue and pain. A muscle relaxant can aid sleep, and a classic antidepressant can boost mood.
- Pain Relievers: Some patients use opioids, but it is all too easy to develop a dependence on them. OTC painkillers such as Advil and Aleve are more common.
- Anti-Seizure Drugs: A growing trend sees drugs to treat epilepsy (anticonvulsants to halt seizures) prescribed to fibromyalgia patients. The FDA has approved pregabalin to treat FM, while Gabapentin is also popular.
Some patients find that physical therapy can help. A therapist teaches you exercises to increase stamina, strength, and flexibility. There is occupational therapy, which involves making changes to your lifestyle to reduce stress on the body. You can also speak with a counselor to help you deal with the situation.
There is a movement towards the use of alternative medicine to treat FM. There is some evidence that acupuncture helps with symptoms. Other options include massage therapy, yoga, and tai chi. In general, you should try to:
- Reduce your level of stress
- Try to get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet
A novel way to deal with symptoms is to try CBD oil for fibromyalgia. Proponents claim the cannabinoid can reduce pain and aid sleep.
CBD Oil for Fibromyalgia
Although millions of people have the condition, there is little understanding of FM, or how to best treat it. The list of symptoms is lengthy and usually divided into the three groups mentioned above. Here is a recap:
- Widespread pain
- Cognitive difficulties
Is there evidence that CBD for fibromyalgia can help with all three aspects? Recent research suggests that ‘yes,’ CBD, and fibromyalgia do mix. There is a belief that cannabidiol activates serotonin receptors. CBD could play a role in reducing inflammation, maintaining body temperature, and pain perception. It may also ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression and possibly improve sleep.
With an array of potential benefits, it is easy to see the appeal. As for the best form of CBD for fibromyalgia, it depends on what you’re looking for. CBD oil is relatively low-cost and easy to use. Edibles take longer to have an effect but could last for hours. Vaporization has a relatively high bioavailability and has an impact in seconds according to some users.
The best CBD dosage for fibromyalgia varies from one person to the next. You could ‘feel’ something taking anywhere from 10mg to 200mg per day. Begin with a small dose and work your way up gradually. Stop increasing as soon as you notice something happening. Let’s see how CBD oil could help with the three separate fibromyalgia symptom groups.
CBD for Fibromyalgia: Pain
There are relatively few studies surrounding fibromyalgia and CBD in general. The legality of hemp may increase research into CBD oil for fibromyalgia pain. A study by Njis J., published in Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets in August 2017, looked at CBD for pain. It concluded that CBD could counteract the hypersensitivity of cells surrounding nerves in patients with chronic pain. This finding included FM patients.
There is an ongoing clinical study by Gruber S. It began in September 2019 and involved 55 patients with chronic pain. The goal is to complete the study by August 2021. Hopefully, it provides us with a clearer insight into how CBD can help the pain felt by those with fibromyalgia.
CBD for Fibromyalgia: Sleep and Fatigue
Lack of sleep is a serious issue for many FM patients. It leads to severe fatigue, irritability, and a variety of additional health issues. There is a link between CBD and a reduction in fatigue.
Shannon et al. published one of the most relevant studies into CBD for sleep in The Permanente Journal in 2019. The researchers gave CBD to 103 adult patients with anxiety and poor sleep patterns. 72 volunteers completed the study. 79% of them reported a decreased anxiety score. Two-thirds of patients reported improved sleep scores within a month, although the figure fluctuated over time.
Walitt B. published another study relating to CBD oil for fibromyalgia in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in July 2016. The study’s goal was to analyze the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of cannabinoids in FM patients. It specifically examined the effects of a human-made form of cannabis called Nabilone.
The researchers found no convincing unbiased evidence that Nabilone had value in the treatment of FM. It is necessary to see the results of studies that focus on CBD from hemp. If such research shows benefits, perhaps we can conclude that lab-made cannabis is not as good as the real thing?
CBD for Fibromyalgia: Inflammation, Pain, and Fibro Fog
Few CBD fibromyalgia studies also look at whether the cannabinoid can help inflammation and fibro fog. Brain fog is an umbrella term for having cognitive issues. It happens when the brain’s limbic system malfunctions. Damage to the brain also results in phospholipid damage. These phospholipids create membrane barriers that protect you from charged particles. Their degradation results in our brain malfunctioning.
Hormonal changes due to andropause or menopause can cause this problem. Sex hormones help regulate cortisol, the stress hormone that affects the brain’s neurotransmitters. The result is slower blood circulation and metabolism. There is a suggestion that CBD helps reduce brain inflammation, which is a significant contributor to fibro fog in FM patients.
Some studies focus on CBD oil for fibromyalgia pain. A study by Sagy I., published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, looked at the safety and efficacy of cannabis in FM. It concluded that medical cannabis is potentially safe and effective in people with fibromyalgia.
Studies on CBD for inflammation are mainly limited to tests performed on rats and mice. A study by Genaro K., published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2017, looked at the effects of CBD on pain in rats. It found that oral CBD treatment reduced sciatic nerve pain and inflammation significantly.
Final Thoughts on CBD and Fibromyalgia
While FM isn’t an autoimmune condition, it is a real disorder that causes severe pain and suffering. There is no cure for the illness, and patients are desperate to find anything that can help deal with their symptoms. Conventional treatments include painkillers, antidepressants, and therapy. Alternative options include acupuncture and massage therapy.
Today, there is a trend that involves taking CBD oil for fibromyalgia. Proponents of the cannabinoid say that it helps with symptoms such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and fibro fog. There is also a suggestion that it can help with lack of sleep. If you are interested in using CBD for fibromyalgia, consult with a physician and begin with a relatively small dose.