Imagine being constantly tired with pain spreading all over your body. Your hips ache, your skin feels bruised and you never know what the next symptom will be.
This is exactly what fibromyalgia sufferers go through on a daily basis.
Fibromyalgia, a rheumatological condition, jeopardizes the normal functioning of the human body by causing musculoskeletal pain and constant fever-like symptoms.
Knowing that medical marijuana is commonly used for treating chronic pain and many accompanying symptoms, I decided to investigate whether it can be a viable treatment for fibromyalgia.
In this guide, we’ll explore what exactly constitutes as fibromyalgia, how it is usually treated, how cannabis can help (with more studies than you’ll ever need) and finally some of the best-recommended cannabis strains for treating this condition.
Fibromyalgia is an ominous whirlpool of pain and suffering
The simplest way to describe fibromyalgia is feeling widespread pain in ankles, joints and muscles while being lethargic and generally unwell.
There are times when the pain goes away but it usually comes back.
There are other symptoms which go along with the pain and fatigue: Sleeping problems, numbness and tingling, migraines, digestive problems, bowel dysfunction, bladder nuisances, nausea, joint pains (especially in the hips) and insomnia.
Most patients also report having restless leg syndrome, an unbearable urge to move their legs, which can make falling asleep more difficult.
Another huge problem with fibromyalgia is that it leaves patients short-tempered and strung out—living with this condition takes its toll and, after a while, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to maintain their social life and build personal relationships.
Both genetic and environmental factors tend to influence the development of the condition. The most recent hypothesis is that that the condition occurs when a person’s system becomes hypersensitive and the body cannot process pain as it should.
Fibromyalgia is not progressive nor fatal, but the pain it causes can be so severe that it becomes almost unbearable. Although it can be terribly painful, fibromyalgia does not cause any permanent damage to joints, soft tissues or muscles.
Researchers have not found the specific cause but it is believed that higher stress levels as well as psychological and physical trauma can trigger fibromyalgia.
One study even indicates that non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause this condition and that fibromyalgia can be reversed by going on a gluten-free diet. However, more research is needed to confirm that. (5)
Conventional medicine speculates that the condition actually causes increased pain sensations in the brain and that the irregular activity of neurotransmitters is responsible for transporting pain signals. If this happens several times, pain receptors develop a memory and they simply overreact to the pain signal over and over again.
What was really interesting to me is that as much as 80 to 90 percent of all fibromyalgia patients are women.
There is no pharmaceutical cure for fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is still relatively new in medical circles and there is no specific medication for it. The condition is usually treated with painkillers, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications.
There are three drugs commonly being used for treating fibromyalgia:
- Lyrica (pregabalin)
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Savella (milnacipran)
The effectiveness of these drugs was explored in a survey done in 2014 by the Global Pain Initiative, which interviewed more than 1,300 fibromyalgia sufferers:
Only 8-10% percent of patients said that they found some relief with prescription drugs. Around 60% of patients did not see any improvement in their symptoms.
In the same survey, 30 percent of respondents tried using medical marijuana for managing their fibromyalgia symptoms:
Believe it or not, 60% of them found cannabis to be highly effective and 33% said that it helps a little.
Let me put that into perspective—out of 450 fibromyalgia patients who tried medical cannabis, 405 said that cannabis helped them in some way. 270 of those said that it helped them a lot.
Here is what the survey concluded:
Medical marijuana 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.
Research on using cannabis for fibromyalgia is actually a big green light
There isn’t much research published on marijuana for fibromyalgia, but there are a few studies which can help us understand this relationship better.
A study published in 2007 by Dr. Ethan Russo concluded that cannabis eases the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves), which is probably the main cause of pain for people living with fibromyalgia. Compared to the placebo-controlled group, cannabis was found to be an effective treatment for peripheral neuropathy. (1)
A 2011 Spanish study titled “Cannabis Use in Patients with Fibromyalgia: Effect on Symptoms Relief and Health-Related Quality of Life” found that cannabis can be effective in reducing pain in fibromyalgia patients.
This study interviewed 56 fibromyalgia patients, 28 of which were cannabis users. Cannabis users all reported a reduction in pain and stiffness and had a much better score in well-being, sleep and relaxation, compared to non-users. (2)
Also, a systematic review from Brazil, published in 2013, found that analgesic properties of marijuana are effective in promoting sleep, reducing pain and joint stiffness while improving physical functions and quality of life of fibromyalgia patients. (3)
Here is how marijuana relieves fibromyalgia symptoms
Since we still don’t have enough research and evidence to explain exactly how cannabis works on fibromyalgia, doctors and scientists assume it all has to do with marijuana’s effects on balancing out our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
In fact, there are speculations that fibromyalgia is caused by Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD).
To make this a bit more digestible, CECD happens when our system does not produce enough endocannabinoids (our own natural cannabinoids). By supplementing those substances with cannabinoids from marijuana, we help our body maintain homeostasis—the cellular balance we all need to function normally.
When our ECS is out of balance that’s when health problems are more likely to occur, such as gastrointestinal issues, sleeping disorders, chronic pain, mood changes, muscle spasms and stiffness.
Synthetic cannabis for fibromyalgia is still a question mark
Patients often ask if synthetic cannabis can be used for treating fibromyalgia symptoms.
In one research with a control placebo group, participants were given nabilone for fibromyalgia, a synthetic cannabinoid made for therapeutic purposes. The drug did have “beneficial, well-tolerated treatment” result, but patients felt more confident in improvements after using natural cannabis. (4)
Dronabinol, or commonly known and sold under the name of Marinol, is a synthetic form of THC. Marinol has been approved by FDA for treating nausea, vomiting, and weight loss from chemotherapy and AIDS in both Canada and the US. However, Marinol has not yet been approved for treating fibromyalgia.
Best cannabis strains for fibromyalgia
Find the right strain for you
Whether you want to relieve anxiety, pain or depression, the right strain is out there. Use our online tool to narrow the search.
The key to finding the best strain for your symptoms is to learn and experiment.
To help you find your footing, I made a short list of the best strains for fibromyalgia which will take you on the path of discovering the best one for you. The method of consumption is up to you.
This powerful Indica, named after the infamous Star Trek species, is one of the best strains for treating nerve damage. Great for muscle spasms and even better for relieving pain, Romulan has a strong sedative effect which is why it’s great for nighttime relaxation.
This is an Indica dominant hybrid with very high THC levels. Scooby Snacks starts with heavy cerebral buzz and body relaxation, but when it starts to wear off it brings forth a feeling of happiness. Since it’s a very potent strain, novice users should take it slow with this one.
Dynamite is an Indica strain which contains slightly more THC than CBD, so you’ll get both high and pain-free. Also, you’ll feel relaxed, it will calm your nerves, and reduce stress and depression. If you are having trouble falling asleep at night due to your fibromyalgia, this is a strain for you.
Fibromyalgia patients like using Cannatonic because of its high CBD and low THC levels. Cannatonic is a good choice for both beginners and veteran users since it produces just a slight psychoactive effect that does not last too long. This strain supposedly crushes the pain in minutes after using it.
It’s highly recommended to use this strain when you are at your comfy house, ready to chill, and not when you have to run your errands. Tahoe OG is strong, so if you are suffering from severe pain, as well as depression, this might be just the right strain for you.
A very popular medical strain for daytime experience, it provides relief from fibromyalgia symptoms without too much sedation. It’s a very popular strain for treating pain and depression. If you need a break from everything that’s going on in your life, get some Blue Dream and you should be good for a few hours at least.
The ultimate strain for every medical condition — Charlotte’s Web is the strain with almost no THC content but is very high in CBD. That’s why patients don’t feel high and buzzed, but rather relaxed and pain-free. Prepare yourself to be happy and without stress for a while.
Critical Mass is a strain that you should use before going to bed, especially if you have a sleeping disorder, depression or anxiety. Because of its high THC content, this strain provides intense “body high” feeling but without heavy sedative effect. It wears off after about three hours.
Its name says it all. Harmonia gets you into balance, with a feeling of harmony and pleasure in your entire body. This Indica strain has slightly higher levels of CBD than THC, which makes it perfect for daytime use since it provides almost no psychoactive effects.
Key Lime Pie
Beginners should be careful with Key Lime Pie since users report it to be quite overwhelming. Its high THC levels help to relax the muscles and introduce that much-needed sleep after a long day of fighting fibromyalgia symptoms.
Marijuana is the next road to explore
Medical marijuana is now available more than ever, especially in the US and Canada. If you, or people you care about, are struggling with fibromyalgia symptoms, the studies and surveys I found in my research indicate that marijuana can be a very helpful treatment.
Marijuana is being successfully used for treating many different medical conditions (especially pain) and it can bring relief without jeopardizing your health.
if you haven’t found relief from fibromyalgia using prescription drugs, and are interested in trying medical cannabis, consult with your doctor in order to develop a treatment plan.
- Russo EB; Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?; Neuro Endocrinology Letters; February-April 2004; 25(1-2):31-9
- Fiz J, Durán M, Capellà D, Carbonell J, Farré M; Cannabis use in patients with fibromyalgia: effect on symptoms relief and health-related quality of life; PLoS One; April 2011; 6(4):e18440
- Nascimento SS, DeSantana JM, Nampo FK, Ribeiro EAN, Silva DL, Araújo-Júnior JX, Almeida JRGS, Bonjardim LR, Araújo AAS, Quintans-Júnior LJ; Efficacy and Safety of Medicinal Plants or Related Natural Products for Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review; Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine; Jun 2013
- Skrabek RQ, Galimova L, Ethans K, Perry D; Nabilone for the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia; The Journal of Pain: The Official Journal of the American Pain Society; February 2008; 9(2):164-73
- Isasi C, Colmenero I, Casco F, et al. Fibromyalgia and non-celiac gluten sensitivity: a description with remission of fibromyalgia. Rheumatol Int. 2014;34(11):1607-12.