For people who suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome, life can be very frustrating, Not only are they suffering the day to day symptoms which directly affect them, of a condition that still has relatively little known about it, they are still battling against general ignorance about their condition but also their own lack of understanding about what is happening to their body.
When we aren’t feeling well, we have a natural instinct to want to know what is happening in our body and how its happened. People with fibromyalgia don’t have that luxury, as, frankly, scientists still don’t really know.
Fibromyalgia is a condition which is suffered by a growing number of people in the UK. It can be difficult to diagnose, as there is no specific test for it, and scientists believe that many more people suffer from it than we know about.
What we do know about Fibromyalgia
People who suffer from fibromyalgia report chronic pain all around the body, fatigue and muscle stiffness amongst other issues. These health issues can have a massive impact on the lives of those who have fibromyalgia, and there is no way to actually cure it of yet.
Although scientists still haven’t discovered what causes fibromyalgia, they believe that it happens due to irregular activity in the body’s central nervous system. This is because they cannot find any ‘physical’ problem which causes the pain – in other words, it’s not due to a damaged muscle or joint, broken bone or inflammation. It seems to be to do with the way that the brain processes pain signals.
Research does show that there are a few factors which can have an effect and contribute towards fibromyalgia:
- Infections can trigger fibromyalgia.
- Genetic mutations (meaning that it can run in families) can make people more susceptible to it.
- Stress or trauma, as a result of relationship breakups, bereavement, PTSD can all enhance the build up of hormones which seem to contribute to the onset of fibromyalgia.
At the moment, the treatment which is available for people who are suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome is all about helping them to relieve its symptoms.
Some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Chronic pain all over the body
- Sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested
- Trouble sleeping
- Dull aching or pain in the lower abdomen
- Difficulty focusing or paying attention
This means that typically, treatment includes painkillers, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs, as well as alternative therapies such as CBT, yoga, meditation, physical therapy, massage therapy, exercise and eating a healthy diet.
Fibromyalgia and the Endocannabinoid System
Discovered in the 1990’s, the endocannabinoid system is a system in the human body which is responsible for keeping it in a state of homeostasis. This means that it ensures that everything in the body is balanced, and therefore working at optimal levels.
The endocannabinoid system consists of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors which interact with endocannabinoids – which are produced naturally in the body. The cannabinoid receptors are situated around the body and can affect a number of bodily functions and systems such as the immune system, the skeletal system, mood, digestion and, perhaps most significantly for people who suffer from fibromyalgia, the central nervous system.
Scientists believe that when there are deficiencies in the numbers of endocannabinoids in the body, health issues can occur, and this is one theory that they are working on, to explain the development of fibromyalgia.
This is known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, and the consequences of this can be a low pain threshold, depression, a decline in sleep quality and digestive problems – symptoms which are similar to those suffered by people with fibromyalgia.
CBD and Fibromyalgia
CBD or Cannabidiol is what’s known as a Phyto cannabinoid. This means that it is a cannabinoid which is found in a plant – in this case, the cannabis plant. It is one of over 100 compounds which are present and that can be extracted and taken by humans for health benefits.
CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system in a similar way to the endocannabinoids which are naturally made by the body. This means that it could effectively ‘replace’ the depleted levels of endocannabinoids in the system and potentially help to diminish the symptoms which are present as a consequence of fibromyalgia.
CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system means that it can be valuable to enhance good health, as well boost some of the other areas which the endocannabinoid system is involved in. These can include:
- Helping to reduce anxiety and depression
- Giving you energy
- Pain relief
It seems that CBD might be able to help people with fibromyalgia by enabling people with the condition to build up their depleted stock of cannabinoids and help them to deal with their symptoms.
There are other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant in addition to CBD. One such cannabinoid is THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol. It is THC that has the effect of making users get the feeling of a high. The law in the UK, Europe and some states in the USA stipulate that for products to be legal to buy, sell and use, the levels of THC must be very low.
For this reason, most CBD products in the UK will be made from industrial hemp and have a THC level of below 0.2%. Scientists do believe, however, that for CBD to be most effective, it needs to be taken in conjunction with THC. Researchers have also found that THC does have some qualities of its own – again, affecting the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but in a slightly different way.
There is still a lot of medical research which needs to be carried out to understand exactly how fibromyalgia, the endocannabinoid system and CBD can be linked together. However, this is an area that scientists are seeing a great deal of hope and potential.
CBD and the symptoms of fibromyalgia
Regardless of whether CBD and other cannabinoids can help people with fibromyalgia to deal with their condition as such there is mounting anecdotal evidence to show that it can help people to deal with its symptoms.
The main problem for people who suffer from fibromyalgia is the chronic pain that they feel. This often means that they are prescribed painkillers to help to combat this pain. Unfortunately, pain killers can sometimes result in opioid addiction or the health complications which are linked to NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen.
Research shows that CBD can be effective in dealing with pain, through its impact on the CB2 and especially CB1 (due to their concentration in the central nervous system) receptors. The fact that CBD doesn’t have any long term or serious side effects means that it could be less harmful than prescribed pain killers.
Stress and Sleep
CBD can be effective in helping people to deal with stress, relax their minds, reduce anxiety and therefore promote better quality sleep. Along with being able to sleep better, people with fibromyalgia are then able to deal better with their day to day life and feel less of an impact from other symptoms.
Anxiety and Depression
CBD is able to affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, which can help to deal with low mood and anxiety. Chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin can help you to feel good, and CBD is able to help to replenish these levels in the body, without you getting high.
There are a number of ways that you can take CBD. Depending on what you prefer, you can use drops under the tongue, take it is capsules, inhale it through a vaporiser or eat it in edibles. There is also the option of using a topical CBD cream which can be rubbed into the skin in the area where there is pain to help with pain relief.
Fibromyalgia can severely affect people’s lives and the medication which is used to help to treat the effects of the condition can be dangerous when used in the long term. Research shows that CBD might be able to help with a lot of these symptoms in a safe and natural way.
There is still a lot more research needed to be carried out to find out exactly how fibromyalgia is linked to the endocannabinoid system, but the hope is that one day CBD and other cannabinoids might be able to be used to significantly improve the lives of those who suffer from this debilitating condition.