Fibromyalgia patients around the world recognize the month of May for raising awareness about the condition. Patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia often deal with symptoms like widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue that can be debilitating and negatively affect quality of life. It’s thought that cannabis can help patients with fibromyalgia treat their pain in addition to, or in place of, the pharmaceutical drugs approved to treat the condition.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes fibromyalgia. It’s possible that the condition involves how the brain and spinal cord process pain signals from the nerves. A patient is more likely to have fibromyalgia if other members of the family have it or if they already have another painful disease like arthritis or a mood disorder such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
Three pharmaceutical drugs that have been specifically used to treat fibromyalgia are: Duloxetine (Cymbalta), Milnacipran (Savella), and Pregabalin (Lyrica). Studies of these drugs show that a substantial number of people with fibromyalgia reported good pain relief, but there were others who didn’t benefit. Like many pharmaceutical medications, these drugs can carry risks such as dizziness, dry mouth, weight gain, swelling, hypertension, and suicidal thoughts.
Cannabis may help alleviate some symptoms of fibromyalgia, although evidence has been limited to small studies. A 2007 study of 40 patients compared the effects of the synthetic cannabinoid nabilone with a placebo, finding the nabilone to have significant pain-relieving effects. Another study in 2011 involved 28 participants who used cannabis for fibromyalgia, with nearly half reporting significant pain relief, some reporting mild pain relief and the remaining 7 percent reporting no difference in their pain symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is one of the 23 qualifying conditions approved for medical marijuana as a potential treatment in Ohio. We asked some Ohio patients to share their experiences using cannabis to treat their fibromyalgia. Here’s what they said:
Lisa has never been a fan of pharmaceutical medicine and wouldn’t consider it for treating her fibromyalgia. She stumbled upon finding that cannabis worked for her condition during a trip out west. “I accidentally happened upon a dispensary in Colorado while on vacation. I had a bad headache from altitude at the time and a dispensary worker recommended a 1:1 thc/cbd tincture to relieve my headache. I soon realized that it relieved ALL my pain, not just my headache.”
Lisa ended up getting her medical marijuana card in Ohio and reports that she uses mostly tinctures and edibles. “I almost always use a 1:1 tincture, but enjoy different cbd infused edibles too. I seem to also do better on indica but a lot of tinctures and edibles are hybrids.”
Lisa says her method of treatment with tincture or edibles 1 hr before bedtime helps her get the rest she needs. “I sleep like a baby and wake up pain free and refreshed.”
If she needs to combat pain during the day, Lisa will use a CBD-rich tincture like a 15:1 CBD to THC ratio. “That way it won’t disable me with a buzz or sleepiness,” she says. “I pretty much know my tolerance level and my dosage [for] relaxation, and not a high.”
Melissa had been experiencing issues with brain fog, joint pain, muscle pain, and even said she was unable to walk and stand up sometimes. She saw a rheumatoid arthritis doctor last year who diagnosed her with fibromyalgia. She also suffers from an autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome, which causes joint pain anddry skin, among many other health issues.
Melissa already had her medical cannabis card due to her chronic pain, so it was an easy choice for her to opt for using cannabis over the standard pharmaceuticals indicated for fibro. “I watched family members and friends overdose and die from pharmaceuticals so I’ve always been very cautious of what I take. So I was not on anything prior and I did not ask to be put on any meds.”
Melissa considers herself a “flower girl” when it comes to using cannabis for her fibro. “I call myself old-school. Flower is the only thing that really helps with my pain and my digestive issues. I do enjoy vape cartridges and have been diving into more edibles as long as they are gluten-free to help with my diet & to help control my health issues. I like to try most flowers so I’m not really strain specific, more of just a go-to a flower. [I’m also] trying to figure out what terpenes work for me as well.”
Lee had been on Cymbalta, Naproxen, and a few other medicines to treat his fibromyalgia. “All of those medications caused me to have stomach issues,” he explained. Lee had heard that Israel had specifically included fibro in their medical program and were studying it, so that made him feel like maybe there was something there as far as actual medical relief. “So when Ohio added it, I figured it was worth the shot.”
Lee started using cannabis in 2019 when Ohio’s medical marijuana program made it legal for him to try cannabis for his fibro. “It was kind of a ‘I’m desperate to find something that works’ because I was suffering from the side effects of the meds I was currently on,” he explained. When he stopped using those medications, he didn’t replace them with more pharmaceuticals, but instead got more intentional about his cannabis use.
“I find that a small dose of an edible at the beginning of the day helps with my baseline pain and helps me get up for the day and then I plan the rest of my cannabis usage based on what I have planned for the day.”
Lee said the change in life was night and day. “I was out walking around, playing Pokémon Go with my kids after spending months sleeping on the couch because I couldn’t climb the stairs to my bed.”
Stories like these can give hope to those suffering from fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia and would like to see if you qualify to try cannabis as a treatment for your condition, schedule an appointment with Duber Medical today.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.