Fibromyalgia is a complex, vexing and difficult condition to live with. It affects over four million adults, comprising mostly women. The condition is most often associated with large-scale body pain in muscles, tissues and tendons. People describe fibromyalgia pain as ranging from a dull ache on a good day to pain that becomes extremely severe, affecting all aspects of life.
There’s growing evidence that cannabidiol (CBD), one of the hundreds of chemical compounds found in cannabis and hemp may help bolster the weakened endocannabinoid systems (ECS) of fibromyalgia sufferers.
How can it do this? By addressing an associated condition known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED).
What Is Fibromyalgia?
The Centers for Disease Control describe fibromyalgia as “a condition that causes widespread pain all over the body.”
The causes of fibromyalgia remain elusive to researchers. For years, suffering patients have begged doctors to develop a clear diagnosis. No specific diagnostic tools have conclusively identified why people develop the condition. Fibromyalgia seems to be related to stress, and people with disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis appear to be at greater risk of developing it.
Folks often report fibromyalgia pain that often targets over a dozen very specific trigger points on the body, including areas like:
- Near the second rib space
- The upper quadrants of the glutes
- The inner fat pad of the knee
Sleep disturbances and intestinal imbalances are common. One of the most vexing aspects of fibromyalgia is that a sufferer’s sensitivity to pain is often heightened as compared to healthy people. Once diagnosed, standard treatment options are few and far between.
What Is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
As many cannabis consumers may already know, the body’s ECS is a relatively recent area of study for scientists and researchers. The ECS, with receptors located throughout the body, is responsible for ensuring healthy signaling between those receptors and your body’s endocannabinoids—cannabinoids the body itself makes.
The “lock and key” relationship between the receptors and endocannabinoids results in neurotransmission—communication at the cellular level that’s essential to how your body deals with and handles nearly every function, such as:
Scientists know that deficiencies in certain neurotransmitters can make a person more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease or depression. More recently, scientists have begun to focus on whether endocannabinoid deficiencies play a role in disease processes.
According to a 2016 study, the lack of an endocannabinoid “tone,” or what’s defined as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, is seen in people with:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
The exciting news is that folks can ease some of the symptoms of these conditions by supplementing their ECS with cannabis.
Can Cannabis Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
There are few single studies specifically targeting fibromyalgia sufferers who are cannabis consumers. However, in a 2011 study, the majority of participants found that their fibromyalgia symptoms became measurably more tolerable after taking cannabis. This bolsters the theory that once the body’s endocannabinoid deficiencies are addressed, pain and inflammation tend to decrease.
Not only did participants feel their pain symptoms decreased, but they also noted improvements in their quality of life.
Conversely, a 2016 study on fibromyalgia patients found that Nabilone, a synthetic form of cannabis, had little to no effect on patient’s pain levels.
CBD May Help With Pain & Reduce Endocannabinoid Deficiencies
What wide-ranging cannabis pain studies seem to agree on is that cannabis helps with inflammation and pain—whether the pain comes from a car accident or an autoimmune disorder.
Not everyone can tolerate the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But fortunately, the ECS responds favorably to CBD, the cannabinoid that doesn’t make you feel high like THC can.
A 2018 study from Canada’s McGill University found that the low doses of CBD they gave to animals effectively decreased both pain and anxiety.
"Our findings elucidate the mechanism of action of CBD and show that it can be used as medicine without the dangerous side effects of the THC," notes Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, Professor of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.
This landmark study indicates that it’s possible for those wanting to address pain and endocannabinoid deficiencies to do so with CBD, bypassing some of the side effects associated with THC.
Balancing Your Endocannabinoid System With CBD
The wonderful news about CBD is that when you buy it from reputable sources, it’s unlikely to produce any side effects or interact unfavorably with other medications.
The mainstreaming of CBD means that products are undergoing more rigorous testing. And for those living in states where cannabis is already legal, CBD products have undergone tests that are far stricter than those imposed on the supplement industry.
Even the Arthritis Foundation has created protocols for those with fibromyalgia who wish to try CBD. This helpful guide includes common-sense recommendations, particularly for first-time medical cannabis patients.
Anecdotal evidence from grateful CBD consumers continues to drive the conversation about the health benefits of taking CBD to help address complex conditions like fibromyalgia.
The media and researchers are completely correct to note that “more studies are needed.” But there are virtually no studies that point to any danger or risk in trying out a CBD regime to balance your endocannabinoid system, and thus, improve your overall health and well-being.
Tips for Fibromyalgia Sufferers Who Are New to CBD
If you’re considering taking CBD for the first time, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Consult with your doctor or a cannabis-friendly health practitioner before you take anything.
- Buy your medicine from a reputable source. Don’t be afraid to ask where the hemp was grown or for lab tests to make sure the product is as advertised.
- Avoid buying CBD from the drugstore, the black market or even online retailers, like Amazon, that don’t specialize in cannabis.
- Enlist the support of the online community, a dispensary/delivery service employee or other trusted expert to answer questions and help you with your purchases.
- Start with a small dose.
- When first trying CBD, take it in the evening at home, in case it makes you feel drowsy or relaxed.
- Keep a journal and record your observations.
- Feel free to increase your dose if you feel no positive effects.
- It will take some time to balance your ECS with CBD, so be patient and take a CBD product regularly for at least three or four weeks before evaluating its efficacy.
- Try several types of consumption methods to find the best one for you:
- A CBD topical cream for sore joints
- A CBD edible product for sleep
- A CBD tincture for quicker-acting pain relief
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