More and more people in the UK are being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a mysterious condition that is characterised by pain all over your body. But can cannabis help?
It would seem so according to a new study by the Dutch Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) which backs up a large number of anecdotal reports.
But which is better for fibromyalgia, THC or CBD ? Let’s take a look at the available data.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a long-term that can be quite tortuous. As well as widespread pain, people with fibromyalgia may also have increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue and muscle stiffness.
This can make it hard to work a job or live an active life.
And the worst part is that the cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. It’s assumed that stress, trauma and genetics play a role, but it’s far from certain.
This makes treating the condition a difficult task. As the causes are not known, all doctors can do is attempt to treat and manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. They do this through a variety of pain medications and antidepressants.
These medications, however, have well-established side-effects that can limit their effectiveness.
Which is why many sufferers start experimenting with cannabis and cannabis-derived products such as CBD oil. But do these natural treatments work better than the side-effect-laden pharmaceuticals they have been prescribed by hopeful doctors?
Can cannabis help with fibromyalgia?
Anecdotal reports of cannabis’ effectiveness at treating fibromyalgia have now been given some scientific weight thanks to a new study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands.
The study, which was done in cooperation with Bedrocan International BV, an established Dutch producer of legal medicinal cannabis, has found that cannabis is indeed effective in treating pain associated with fibromyalgia.
However, it was only cannabis with high levels of THC that proved effective. Cannabis with only cannabidiol (CBD) did not provide any relief at all.
During the study, a total of twenty subjects treated with three different cannabis products – Bedrocan (22% THC, <1% CBD), Bediol (6.3% THC, 8% CBD), and Bedrolite < 1% THC, 9% CBD) – and a placebo (cannabis without any THC or CBD).
The method of consumption was one vapour inhalation via a dry herb vaporiser.
After dosing, all subjects were exposed to externally inflicted pain by applying increasing pressure to muscles and tendons.
With the Bedrocan (THC) and Bediol (THC + CBD) products, patients experienced significantly less pressure pain compared to the placebo. Bedrolite (CBD), however, provide no relief.
Furthermore, many respondents noted they experienced relief in their spontaneous pain after using Bediol (THC + CBD), suggesting that a combination of high-THC and high-CBD may be best for the long-term treatment of fibromyalgia pain.
The authors of the study concluded that “cannabis varieties containing THC caused a significant increase in pressure pain threshold relative to placebo.”
CBD plus THC
Another important find of the study was the fact that CBD inhalation increased THC concentrations in the blood.
While this may seem to suggest that CBD increases THC’s effects, it was actually found that CBD diminished THC’s short-term pain-relieving effects.
Perhaps this could mean that high-THC and low-to-medium-CBD may be best for treating fibromyalgia pain.
What about CBD oil for fibromyalgia?
While the study on Bedrocan cannabis products found CBD-only cannabis to offer no pain relief to fibromyalgia patients, anecdotal data suggests that taking CBD oil may alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia like pain in some people.
However, for a number of reasons, there is not much research on this specific intervention.
We do know that CBD can effectively relieve neuropathic pain, reduce inflammation and anxiety, and improve sleep. Therefore, it’s little wonder than some people report an improvement in their fibromyalgia symptoms from using CBD oil.
And there is one study from 2017 that found CBD might counteract the hypersensitivity of cells surrounding nerves in people with chronic pain, including those with fibromyalgia.
Speaking about the new research on cannabis and fibromyalgia, founder and CEO of Bedrocan, Tjalling Erkelens, said: “The outcome is very important for patients who suffer from fibromyalgia.”
“Now we have the serious clinical evidence that medical doctors are asking for when prescribing our products and that health insurance companies want to have, to legitimise reimbursement.”
It must be stated, however, that fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that cannabis will not cure.
On a positive note, though, THC-rich cannabis and cannabis with high level of both THC and CBD can make the pain associated with fibromyalgia a substantial amount more bearable.
It may be worth experimenting with various ratios of THC and CBD in order to find the best dose for you. Cannabis, however, should be a complementary treatment alongside making healthy lifestyle changes and a healthy dose of self-love.