Can CBD help ease fibromyalgia pain?

Fibromyalgia is one of those chronic conditions that pretty much has everyone flummoxed. No one seems to know what causes it or how to treat it effectively. Oh, and there’s no cure.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, in the United States about 5 million adults aged 18 years or older experience fibromyalgia, and 80 to 90 percent are women.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is confused with arthritis or inflamed joints. However, unlike arthritis, fibromyalgia affects soft tissue not joints.

The symptoms can fluctuate in intensity, location and duration. Fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties (memory problems or thinking clearly) and stiffness are the most reported symptoms.

People who have this condition often also suffer from depression or anxiety, migraines, tension headaches, pelvic pain, irritable or overactive bladder, and more. Pharmaceuticals rarely work well and often have side effects almost equally as onerous as the original condition.

CBD for pain relief

But, take heart. Cannabidiol, or CBD, may be worth checking into. Dr. Ethan Russo, a prominent neurologist and pharmacologist who has dedicated much of his professional career to studying cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, theorized that fibromyalgia could be related to Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency.

As I’ve stated before, we all have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) already in place in our brains and throughout our bodies. Russo’s thought is that a CBD deficiency may be the underlying culprit in this chronic condition. By introducing CBD internally or topically may help reduce the deficiency. The CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS communicate with the applied or ingested CBD, which can help reduce pain.

In 2014, the National Pain Foundation surveyed 1,300 patients about their pain treatment. Of survey participants, 390 had used CBD with these results:

  • 62 percent reported CBD as very effective in treating their symptoms

  • 33 percent reported that cannabis helped a little

  • Only 5 percent said it did not help at all

Now look at this information for those who used FDA-approved medications:

  • A mere 8 to 10 percent reported Cymbalta, Lyrica or Savella as very effective

  • 60 to 68 percent responded that those drugs [did] not help at all

How does CBD relieve pain?

Researchers have only begun to look at how CBD can help relieve pain in some people and not others. As I mentioned earlier, the ECS in all of us interacts with cannabinoids that are produced in our bodies, called endocannabinoids, and CBD that is applied externally or taken internally. The ECS helps to regulate functions such as sleep, immune-system responses and pain.

The ECS receptors, CB1 and CB2, patrol the body to help maintain the status quo. CB1 receptors are found in the brain and throughout the body. CB2 receptors mostly monitor the immune and gastrointestinal systems, with a smaller presence in the brain. 

CBD, applied or ingested, interacts with the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) found in the brain. Depending on the individual, CBD could interrupt nerve paths that send pain messages to the brain and body, thus relieving the intensity of pain.

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Here’s an example of how it works. CBD stops the body from absorbing anandamide, a compound associated with regulating pain. When you increase anandamide in the bloodstream, you may experience pain reduction.

CBD is also a known anti-inflammatory, which seems to be a root in fibromyalgia. CBD interacts with receptors throughout the body to relieve pain by reducing the swelling and heat that occurs with inflammation.

Is CBD for you?

Good question. It affects everyone differently, and dosage is not yet regulated. On the other hand, side effects are minimal, if any. Consult your doctor, do your research and know what you are getting. Before you do that, read Life after fibromyalgia, Carolyn’s journey to relieving fibromyalgia symptoms with CBD.

CBD seems to offer more hope for relief from the chronic and difficult symptoms than mainstream medications. Clearly more study is necessary, but there is potential here, and people are willing to forego evidence-based studies to relieve symptoms with a product that doesn’t have harmful or troublesome side effects.

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