A new medical research study from Spain indicates that medical marijuana may be effective in helping to ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia, particularly in reducing overall pain, alleviating stiffness, enhancing relaxation, improving rest and fostering a sense of well being. That's one of the conclusions from a report published in the Public Library of Science, "Cannabis use in patients with fibromyalgia: effect on symptoms are relief and health-related quality of life."
Although fibromyalgia has been studied for over a century, the journal Current Pain and Headache Reports states that in the past this disease was conflated with rheumatism. The public has really only begun to appreciate the scope and public health costs of fibromyalgia over the past 20 years. With over 12 million sufferers, fibromyalgia is now considered the second most common musculoskeletal condition in the US after arthritis. Women are at particular risk, being 10x more likely than men to suffer from fibromyalgia.
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are diffused as well as pinpoint muscle and joint pain. Patients also commonly suffer from anxiety, difficulty sleeping, incapacitating fatigue, chronic headaches, restless leg syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and a very low pain threshold.
Fibromyalgia has proven very difficult to treat - according to a study from the Tufts University School of Medicine, only 35% of patients are able to obtain relief with traditional medication. Additionally, traditional medications like Lyrica, Symbalta and Savella often have serious side effects. This is a significant concern, as many patients with fibromyalgia are also prescribed anti-depressants.
In support of the Spanish research, a National Pain Foundation study of more than 1,300 fibromyalgia patients reported that 62 percent of patients taking medical marijuana found cannabis to be effective in relieving their symptoms. The endocannabinoid system in these patients does not provide enough of a feedback loop to decrease or stop pain signals. Perhaps a result of increased sensitivity, a defect in neurotransmitter release or the blockage of pathways that the body employs to inhibit pain signals is highly problematic. It is hypothesized that the cannabinoids in medical marijuana can "reset" or block this to decrease the symptoms. Oral tablets tend to be the preferred delivery method for patients looking to achieve timed release for longer lasting effects, while inhalation of cannabis smoke tends to provide more rapid pain relief because the medicine enters the blood stream more directly.
The use of cannabinoids for pain relief and reducing stiffness represent areas of research where modern science agrees with the ancient healing practice. For fibromyalgia sufferers, marijuana can provide pain relief without the negative side effects of commercial pharmaceuticals.