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Cannabis and fibromyalgia: Here’s why marijuana may work when traditional meds fail

Cannabis may treat fibromyalgia symptoms better than traditional painkillers, but why?


Article by Extract | Story by Emily Gray Brosious

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and tenderness (sensitivity to touch), according to the American College of Rheumatology. In some cases, the symptoms of this disease may be debilitating.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is believed to involve disturbances in the way the central nervous system sends and receives messages, as reported by Whaxy.

This chronic health problem, which affects an estimated 5 to 12 million Americans, has no cure but medications and self-care can reduce symptoms for some patients.

Per the American College of Rheumatology:

Fibromyalgia is most common in women, though it can occur in men. It most often starts in middle adulthood, but can occur in the teen years and in old age.

You are at higher risk for fibromyalgia if you have a rheumatic disease (health problem that affects the joints, muscles and bones). These include osteoarthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis.

Fibromyalgia symptoms are often poorly controlled by traditional pain medications, and patients frequently report using medical cannabis to treat their symptoms, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Cannabis is an effective choice for many fibromyalgia patients because it treats a host of symptoms associated with the disease, including pain, insomnia, fatigue, restless leg syndrome, depression and anxiety, according to Whaxy.

Cannabis treatment also carries far fewer risks than traditional painkillers do.

Cannabis and pain

Marijuana is an effective painkiller because it taps into a system of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body’s nervous system.

Per Whaxy:

Unlike many conventional pain treatments, cannabinoids — the miracle molecules like THC and CBG that are responsible for the medical efficacy of marijuana — are able to modulate pain signals sent from both peripheral nerves and the spinal cord.

A 1999 study from the Institute of Medicine found cannabinoids effectively help relieve pain, increase appetite and relieve nausea and vomiting.

A 2011 clinical trial by investigators at the Institute de Recerca Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain, reported medical marijuana use was associated with beneficial relief of various fibromyalgia symptoms, including relief of pain muscle stiffness.

A bunch of studies actually show marijuana to be an effective treatment for fybromyalgia symptoms.

“Marijuana has been a medicine for 5,000 years,” explains Donald I. Abrams, MD. “That’s a lot longer than it hasn’t been a medicine.”

Per WebMD:

Abrams, who is an oncologist and director of clinical research programs at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine in San Francisco, is one of a handful of top-flight doctors in the country researching medical marijuana.

“The war on drugs is really a war on patients,” he says.

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