Does it work?
Cannabis comes from plants in the Cannabis genus. It contains two main active ingredients (or compounds): tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
- THC is the psychoactive compound that gives the high sensation. It can be smoked and is available in other forms, such as edibles, oils, and capsules.
- CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound, meaning it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with THC. It’s sold in gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more.
You can find cannabis products that contain just CBD or THC, or a combination of both.
Many people with fibromyalgia use marijuana products to treat their symptoms.
The Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies, published in 2017, indicates that cannabis and related products may be effective in treating some symptoms of fibromyalgia.
However, researchers agree that more studies are needed to understand the role of cannabis and its active components in treating fibromyalgia.
In particular, few studies have examined the effectiveness of THC versus CBD for symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Here’s a summary of the research for common fibromyalgia symptoms:
Medical cannabis for fibromyalgia pain
In 2017, the National Academies Press (NAP) published a comprehensive review of the health effects of cannabis, including therapeutic effects. According to the review, substantial evidence suggests cannabis is effective in treating chronic pain in adults.
Few studies have focused exclusively on pain associated with fibromyalgia.
A 2007 study of 40 patients with fibromyalgia comparing the effects of the synthetic cannabinoid nabilone with a placebo found the nabilone treatment to have significant pain-relieving effects.
In a 2011 study Trusted Source, 28 participants who used cannabis for fibromyalgia ranked its perceived benefits for each symptom.
Among them, approximately 43 percent reported strong pain relief and 43 percent reported mild pain relief. The remaining 7 percent reported no difference in their pain symptoms.
A 2018 study Trusted Source of 20 people with fibromyalgia compared the pain-relieving effects of four types of cannabis, each of which had different THC and CBD contents.
One of the four types of cannabis was a placebo which contained neither THC nor CBD.
The study found that subjects receiving the two treatments containing high levels of THC experienced an increase in their pain threshold compared to the placebo, while the ones receiving a formula containing CBD without THC experienced no significant pain relief.
More research is required to understand whether medical cannabis really is an effective treatment for pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Medical cannabis for fibromyalgia sleep problems
The 2018 review from NAP referenced in the previous section concluded that there’s a moderate amount of evidence that cannabis-related products can help improve sleep in people with fibromyalgia in the short term.
In the 2011 study Trusted Source cited in the previous section, 81 percent of participants who used cannabis to treat fibromyalgia reported that it provided strong relief from sleep issues.
Finally, a 2010 study investigated the effects of nabilone, a synthetic drug with effects similar to those of cannabis. The researchers found that nabilone helped improve sleep among people with fibromyalgia.
Medical cannabis for other fibromyalgia symptoms
Research examining the effectiveness of cannabis in treating other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia is limited.
According to the Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies, most of the evidence assessing cannabis’ effectiveness in treating muscle stiffness, mood problems, anxiety, and headaches associated with fibromyalgia comes from surveys and observational studies.
More clinical studies are needed to come to any conclusions.
Can medical cannabis alleviate my fibromyalgia symptoms?
Based on the research above, medical cannabis might be able to help manage pain and sleep disturbances associated with fibromyalgia.
If you’re thinking about using medical cannabis to treat fibromyalgia, speak to your doctor. Cannabis can interfere with medication you might already be taking.
Your doctor can help you weigh the risks and potential benefits of using cannabis for fibromyalgia. They can also tell you whether it’s legally available in your area.
Don’t use cannabis if you’re pregnant or nursing. THC can pass through the placenta and breast milk to your baby, and it poses risks to developing fetuses and babies.
People who live with fibromyalgia may experience pain, headaches, and nausea, among other symptoms. Studies have shown that active ingredients in marijuana can improve Trusted Source these symptoms in some people.
However, few studies have focused on the effects of marijuana or its extracts as a specific management method for fibromyalgia, and the existing literature has reached mixed conclusions.
Research published in 2011
Trusted Source indicated that using cannabis might have beneficial effects on certain symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The study examined people who were “using cannabis” rather than focusing on a medicinal extract or a specific chemical.
However, a 2016 review of studies found that too little evidence was available to recommend any marijuana-based treatments for managing symptoms in people with rheumatic diseases, such as fibromyalgia.
In 2018, an Australian study Trusted Source
did not find that using cannabis reduced pain or the need for opioids among people with a range of conditions. However, this study, as with many others, focused on people who use marijuana recreationally rather than medical use.
Up to 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia are women. However, at least one study has found that marijuana provides better pain relief for men Trusted Source than women.
Some evidence confirms that a few of the ingredients in marijuana may help relieve Trusted Sourcethe chronic pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and nerve pain associated with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Cannabis may emerge as effective for easing similar symptoms in those with fibromyalgia.
Medical marijuana may be an option for people with fibromyalgia. It contains compounds that could offer relief from some of the symptoms.
The ingredients THC and CBD have received the most attention. THC is similar to cannabinoid chemicals that occur naturally in the body. It works by stimulating cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This activates the brain’s reward system and decreases pain levels.
At least one study Trusted Source suggests that THC may help relieve headaches. It also influences the areas of the brain associated with memory and coordination.
Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and does not bind to cannabinoid receptors. In other words, it does not produce the feelings of pleasure and euphoria, also known as the high, that THC often causes.
When is marijuana suitable?
People use marijuana for a wide range of conditions, although research has only confirmed its benefits for a few.
Currently, good scientific evidence confirms the benefits of its use in treating chronic pain, including nerve pain and muscle spasms.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research is underway to find out if compounds in marijuana might help with the following:
- appetite loss and anorexia
- conditions that affect the immune system, including HIV
- multiple sclerosis
- substance use disorders
- mental health conditions
Mouse studies have indicated that purified extracts of marijuana may slow the growth of cancercells in one kind of brain tumor. A combination of CBD and THC extracts helped kill cancer cells in mice during radiation treatment.
More research is necessary to confirm these uses.
Risks and cautions
People who wish to try marijuana as a treatment for pain symptoms for fibromyalgia should check their state’s laws in relation to the use of cannabis.
Since the FDA have not approved marijuana and most of its related products, consumers should take care when obtaining and using a product, as no regulations control the quality or contents of the products.
People grow marijuana as a plant. They do not synthesize it carefully in a laboratory. Therefore, the amounts of potentially beneficial compounds vary from one batch of plants to another. The effectiveness of symptom relief may also vary as a result.
People should consult their doctor for advice about using any alternative or complementary therapy, including marijuana, because it may not be safe and effective for everyone. For example, the ingredients in marijuana could interact with other medications.
Marijuana products may have fungus or mold that can do serious harm to the lungs and overall health. Manufacturers and vendors might add other drugs. People using marijuana face a risk of contamination as a result.
A healthcare provider may be able to recommend a reputable source or product.