Cannabis Reduces Fibromyalgia Symptoms, Study Finds

Researchers have found that medicinal cannabis reduces the symptom severity of fibromyalgia while also reducing overall opiate use by patients by 17%. 

The study included 306 patients enrolled in the UK Medical Cannabis Registry whilst also being treated at Sapphire Medical Clinics for fibromyalgia. 

Significant reductions in fibromyalgia symptoms were found as early as one month into the study, and continued to the end (six months). 

Patients also reported improvements in anxiety symptoms, sleep quality, pain severity, and overall health-related quality of life. 

Consultant Rheumatologist at Sapphire Medical Clinics, Dr. Wendy Holden, said, “This study is the first of its kind into the outcomes of UK patients prescribed CBMPs for fibromyalgia – and results are very promising.”  

The full findings of the research will be shown at the upcoming International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) Symposium – which will take place from 25th June to 30th June. 

A closer look at fibromyalgia 

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic health condition characterised by widespread, severe musculoskeletal pain that affects an estimated 5–7% of the global population. 

It also affects around three million people across the UK, and while anyone can develop fibromyalgia, it typically affects more women than men from the age of 35 to 50. 

The symptoms most commonly experienced are: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Debilitating chronic fatigue 
  • Increased pain sensitivity 
  • Sleep disturbance  
  • Cognitive dysfunction (often called ‘fibro fog’) 
  • Depressive states 
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, temperature, and touch. 

Other patients have also reported that the chronic condition can cause pain in muscles, tendons, and ligaments – causing tenderness in the upper chest, back, neck, arms, and legs. 

Symptoms seem to intensify due to stress, cold weather, and exercise with patients still reporting extreme tiredness even after resting. 

To this day, health care professionals have been given no formal diagnostic procedure to follow in order to treat fibromyalgia, which has obviously caused problems for patients. 

Many patients have to undergo extensive medical investigations – navigating between pain management, rheumatology, and psychology experts. 

What’s more, a shocking number of patients receive an incorrect diagnosis and only get the real diagnosis after living with symptoms for years. 

The typical ‘journey’ of a patient will consist of trying multiple medications to battle against the condition which may include analgesics, anti-depressants, complicated medical regimes, and, pain management programs.  

Dr. Wendy Holden said, “Seeking an official diagnosis is important for patients and can be incredibly empowering by enabling them to validate their condition.

“An accurate and early diagnosis is vital to ensure symptoms such as anxiety, sleep, and cognitive function can be managed, mobility can be maintained – to avoid the risk of disability. 

“Sadly though, many patients experience a late diagnosis after years of pain, finding themselves in devastating circumstances, unable to work and facing poverty.” 

“Finding the right treatment regime for fibromyalgia is a huge problem – and 50 percent of the patients I see at Sapphire Medical Clinics suffer from the condition,” She added. 

Cannabis for fibromyalgia 

The most recent study, which was published in the Pain Research and Management journal, led the authors to conclude, “Cannabis should be seriously considered in every ‘chronic pain condition’ whenever the accepted modalities of treatment are insufficient for alleviating patient’s pain and sleep problems.” 

Dr. Holden said, “One of the ways we can help patients in the future is to invest in this type of research to better understand the condition and the impact of emerging treatment options. 

“From my experience, the results of the study mirror what I am seeing in patients sitting in front of me during their follow-up appointments.” 

In July 2021, Dr. Anthony Ordman – the leading pain consultant in the UK – spoke about why medicinal cannabis is so effective in treating fibromyalgia, quoting:  

“Whilst there is no one conventional medicine to treat fibromyalgia, often, anti-depressants and nerve pain medicine are tried. Although these medicines can sometimes help, they often have nasty side effects, which can leave patients suffering more. 

“Cannabis medicines can offer a potentially extremely effective treatment as they re-balance and regulate the human body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) without leaving a patient with debilitating side effects.” Ordman concluded. 

Another study, published in September 2021, found that pain levels in fibromyalgia patients were reduced following the use of medicinal cannabis. 

After researchers surveyed 319 patients about their medicinal cannabis usage, those ​​with fibromyalgia accounted for 82 percent of the group and reported a mean pain level reduction of 77 percent, while also reporting an overall sleep quality improvement of 78 percent. 

And in 2019, a study was published by Iftach Sagy, Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, Mahmoud Abu-Shakra, and Victor Novack – and they found that pain intensity levels were reduced in 367 patients after being treated with medicinal cannabis products. 

This led researchers to conclude, “Cannabis therapy should be considered to ease the symptom burden among those fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care.”  

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