A lot of people, suffering from fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder that causes widespread (and sometimes wandering) musculoskeletal pain, shave reportedly got positive results from using cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
In fact, a 2013 review (1) of anecdotal evidence, published in the journal, Pharmacotherapy, states that CBD has been found to help relieve pain caused by fibromyalgia (formerly known as fibrositis) and several other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
While such personal accounts of CBD’s therapeutic impact cannot be the basis for recommending a cannabinoid as a form of treatment, a lot of people from all over America claim that using CBD has helped ease their pain as well as alleviate other symptoms of fibromyalgia, when all the other conventional forms of treatment had failed.
CBD, short for Cannabidiol, is among the 1oo+ chemical compounds and one of over 60+ cannabinoids (*1) found in plants belonging to the Cannabis Sativa species. Which means CBD can be extracted from both marijuana and hemp plants.
However, this chemical compound isn’t responsible for the famous marijuana “high”. Contrarily, it is non-psychoactive, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is another cannabinoid that actually produces a mind-altering, hallucinatory effect on humans and animals alike, through the body’s endocannabinoid system (*2).
In fact, CBD has actually been seen to counter THC’s effects by acting against receptors that THC targets to create paranoia and anxiety.
Naturally, doctors, these days are also interested in this new magic potion that many have claimed has beneficial properties in managing different kinds of physical conditions like pain, anxiety, and insomnia. But they also need scientific proof from clinical trials and research in this area to reinforce their trust in this naturally available cannabinoid.
Meanwhile, patients suffering from this disorder must also understand that, though treatable, fibromyalgia is not curable. Its treatment mainly focuses on pain management.
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Research into the benefits of CBD on fibromyalgia patients
While research on cannabidiol’s effect on human beings is still ongoing, it is safe to say that it is still in its prenatal stage, especially when it comes to its effectiveness on patients suffering fibromyalgia – a disorder which is much misunderstood and often confused with other conditions.
While that may be true, CBD oil has been known to complement treatment for chronic pain symptoms as well as reduce inflammation caused by different kinds of conditions. So, it’s no wonder that this cannabis extract is considered to be an alternative to taking addictive opioid prescriptions.
Having said that, let us take a look at some of the surveys that have been conducted on CBD oil’s benefits for fibromyalgia patients.
- A 2014 survey (2) conducted by the National Pain Foundation (*3) discovered that medicinal marijuana, which contains a substantial quantity of CBD, is “far more effective at treating symptoms of fibromyalgia than any of the three prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the disorder”. The drugs approved by the FDA to treat fibromyalgia are Cymbalta, Lyrica, and Savella. Although quite a few reputed pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Forest Laboratories are engaged in producing these drugs, most of those who have tried these medications say they did more harm than good.
- Another survey (3) was conducted on CBD’s effect on fibromyalgia patients in Israel as recently as 2018. Among the 383 people who took part in the survey:
- 94% reported pain relief
- 93% reported improved sleep quality
- 62% reported improvement from anxiety
- Some of these participants also reported a few adverse effects
However, surveys definitely do not carry the same weight as that of clinical trials. So, here are a few studies that have been done in recent times on CBD’s effects on fibromyalgia patients.
- According to a 2016 study (4), it is the lack of endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors), also known as a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED), which causes chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia and other treatment-resistant disorders, like migraine and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – conditions that are often seen to coexist along with fibromyalgia. So, there is a possibility that taking CBD oil as a supplement may help manage pain caused due to fibromyalgia.
- In another study (5), published in Journal Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets in July 2017, the researchers concluded that CBD has certain properties that can counter the heightened sensitivity of cells surrounding nerves in patients of chronic pain, including those of fibromyalgia. This suggests that using CBD oil can numb the pain to a certain extent.
CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. Although fibromyalgia is not exactly classified as an inflammatory condition, several studies have suggested that some cases of fibromyalgia may also be associated with inflammation of the fascia, a connective tissue found throughout the entire body. The following studies show a definitive connection between fibromyalgia and inflammation:
- Journal of Pain Research published a study (6), in which 92 different proteins that are known to be linked to inflammation were examined. The researchers said, “This is the first time that such an extensive inflammatory profile has been described for FM (fibromyalgia) patients”. The study showed evidence of inflammation both systemic and in the central nervous system (that includes the brain and the spinal cord nerves).
- Another study, published by Dr. Ginevra Liptan, MD, in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy (7), points to inflammation of the fascia (a layer of connective tissue that surrounds most internal structures) as the cause for fibromyalgia (or FM in short). Dr Liptan found some evidence of the dysfunction of this intramuscular connective tissue to be the source of “peripheral nociceptive input that leads to central sensitization in fibromyalgia”. This fascial dysfunction may be caused by inadequate growth hormone production as well as a dysfunction in the stress response mechanism of our central nervous system.
- Again, a 2012 study (8), which was published in Neuroimmunomodulation, also concluded that there was a connection with inflammation and the body’s abnormal response to stress, something that is responsible for development of fibromyalgia, although they weren’t able to confirm if it was inflammation that leads to this condition or the opposite.
- Spanish researchers, led by MD Cordero, published a paper (9) in 2013, in which they discussed the possibility that inflammation in fibromyalgia could be the result of dysfunction in the mitochondria, which is a part of human cell that breaks down nutrients to energy.
- Yet another study (10), conducted in Spain and published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology in 2010, shed light on the elevated levels of certain types of cells in the skin of people suffering from fibromyalgia. These types of cells, called mast cells, are present in the fascia and are responsible for releasing inflammatory chemicals in response to various stress triggers. They are part of the body’s immune and neuroimmune system. A similar study was also conducted in earlier in 1997 (11).
Moreover, CBD has been found to be effective on patients suffering from inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety [https://greenthevoteok.com/cbd-oil/studies/anxiety/], and mood swings. Given the fact that fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to diagnose and even more difficult to treat, managing these associated conditions can effectively help such patients.
Why is there so little research available on CBD’s efficacy on fibromyalgia?
While diagnosing fibromyalgia is quite difficult, owing to its vague and confusing symptoms, there are several other issues concerning research on cannabidiol. Most of the studies conducted in this area…
- Are very small
- Often produce contradictory results
- Don’t always involve placebos
- Depend a lot on participants’ responses, without using objective measurement
Besides, there is also the issue of legal constraints of marijuana, and CBD in general, that has made research quite difficult. There are also other challenges, like finding good quality CBD oil or high-quality medical marijuana, controlling their dosage and potency as well as a lack of proper regulation on companies selling these products.
As a result, most of the available data is mixed or inconclusive.
Is there any evidence of CBD negatively impacting fibromyalgia patients?
Fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread body pain, inflammation, sleeplessness, overall fatigue, and mood swings, accompanied by anxiety. While CBD has been found to help manage these issues, there is still a lack of significant human-based studies and clinical trials on CBD’s impact specifically on fibromyalgia patients.
However, as the current status stands, CBD oil is available in the market in different proportions, and the proportion of THC in it is also not properly regulated. While higher levels of THC have been found to help reduce pain, it has been also been seen to have a hallucinatory effect on patients, something that can aggravate anxiety issues and mood swings among its users.
While there are very few research data available, we can’t also say with certainty that CBD oil will not adversely affect a fibromyalgia patient.
Besides, the usual risks do still remain. They include:
- Other existing conditions or ailments 
- Current medication and interaction with them 
- Pregnancy 
- Contamination  & mislabeling
- Unavailability of high-quality CBD oil
The only research-based evidence of its negative impact on fibromyalgia patients were seen when a synthetic form of cannabis was tried on some such patients.
Synthetic cannabis & fibromyalgia
Synthetic forms of cannabis have so far been of no help to fibromyalgia patients. In fact, a 2016 review (12) by Cochrane assessed the effects of such a synthetic compound, called Nabilone, on fibromyalgia patients. The researchers realized that not only do the patients have poor tolerance to the drug; they did not even experience any significant benefit from using it.
Apart from this, the usual side-effects  include:
- Dryness of mouth
- Drop in blood pressure
- Diarrhea and change in weight & appetite
The Editor’s Note
Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness and there is no absolute cure for it. In fact, CBD oil can’t really cure it either.
However, many patients, who have combined this cannabinoid with other forms of medications and remedies, have found better results than what they were experiencing with the conventional methods of treatment alone. They feel that it better manages the pain and other symptoms caused by this condition.
Nonetheless, we always urge our readers never to self-medicate. If you want to try out CBD oil for your condition because you’ve heard of others benefit from it, you must always consult your physician first. Since he knows your medical history, he will be the right person to determine if CBD is safe for you and whether it will be of any benefit to you.
A final word of caution: Find out about the legal status of CBD and medicinal marijuana in your state before you go out and buy them.
- *1 Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds found both naturally and within our bodies that directly or indirectly influence various physiological and psychological functioning of our bodies. These chemical compounds interact with the cannabinoid receptors of our endocannabinoid system to help our body maintain stability and health. The cannabinoids generated from within our body are known as endocannabinoids, while those found naturally in plants are called phytocannabinoids, like those found in cannabis sativa plants. The most common ones found in cannabis plants are Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA), Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA), Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabinol (CBN), Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
- *2 The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system of lipid-based neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids, produced within our body, that bind with cannabinoid receptors, present throughout the central nervous system, including the brain, as well as the peripheral nervous system. This system regulates and controls a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, including fertility, pregnancy, appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory. It also mediates the pharmacological effects of cannabis.
- *3 National Pain Foundation is a not-for-profit organization addressing pain-related health challenges on a global basis.
- The pharmacologic and clinical effects of medical cannabis; Journal Pharmacotherapy 2013; Laura M Borgelt, Kari Lanette Franson, Abraham M. Nussbaum, George Sam Wang; https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-pharmacologic-and-clinical-effects-of-medical-Borgelt-Franson/4d12db2a249cc22cb8e78f31586ff0036b8bce9d
- Marijuana Rated Most Effective for Treating Fibromyalgia; by Pat Anson, Editor; http://nationalpainreport.com/marijuana-rated-most-effective-for-treating-fibromyalgia-8823638.html
- Pain Research and Treatment; Volume 2018, Article ID 7829427; https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/7829427; Research Article: The Consumption of Cannabis by Fibromyalgia Patients in Israel; George Habib and Irit Avisar; https://www.hindawi.com/journals/prt/2018/7829427/abs/
- Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes; Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Vol; Ethan B. Russo; July 28, 2016; https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2016.0009
- Sleep disturbances and severe stress as glial activators: key targets for treating central sensitization in chronic pain patients? Journal Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets; Jo Nijs, Marco L. Loggia, Andrea Polli, Maarten Moens, Eva Huysmans, Lisa Goudman, Mira Meeus, Luc Vanderweeën, Kelly Ickmans & Daniel Clauw ; Published online: 12 Jul 2017; https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14728222.2017.1353603
- Evidence of both systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia patients, as assessed by a multiplex protein panel applied to the cerebrospinal fluid and to plasma; Emmanuel Bäckryd, Lars Tanum, Anne-Li Lind, Anders Larsson, and Torsten Gordh; Journal of Pain Research; Published online March 3, 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5344444/
- Fascia: A missing link in our understanding of the pathology of fibromyalgia; Liptan GL; Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20006283
- Inflammatory/stress feedback dysregulation in women with fibromyalgia; Neuroimmunomodulation; September 12, 2012; Bote ME, García JJ, Hinchado MD, Ortega E.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22986514
- Is Inflammation a Mitochondrial Dysfunction-Dependent Event in Fibromyalgia? Antioxidants & Redox Signaling; March 1, 2013; Mario D. Cordero, Eduardo Díaz-Parrado, Angel M. Carrión, Simona Alfonsi, José Antonio Sánchez-Alcazar, Pedro Bullón, Maurizio Battino, and Manuel de Miguel1; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3555092/
- Abnormal overexpression of mastocytes in skin biopsiesof fibromyalgia patients; Clinical Rheumatology; April 2010; Ignacio Blanco, Nana Béritze, Mario Argüelles, Victoriano Cárcaba, Fernando Fernández, Sabina Janciauskiene, Katerina Oikonomopoulou, Frederick J. de Serres, Enrique Fernández-Bustillo, Morley D. Hollenberg; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230776404_Blanco_et_al_J_Rheu_2010
- Dermal IgG deposits and increase of mast cells in patients with fibromyalgia — Relevant findings or epiphenomena? Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, 1997; Eneström S, Bengtsson A, Frödin T.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9310112
- Cannabinoids for fibromyalgia; Cochrane Systematic Review – Intervention Version Published: July 18, 2016; Brian Walitt, Petra Klose, Mary‐Ann Fitzcharles, Tudor Phillips, Winfried Häuser; https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD011694.pub2/full