CBD is a powerful therapeutic agent. It can be used to treat rare forms of epilepsy and shows immeasurable promise in the treatment of anxiety disorders and multiple sclerosis. Outside of the clinic, CBD is gaining traction in the health industry. It is improving the mental and physical wellbeing of people all over the world.
Anyone living with a chronic condition will know just how much it disrupts each and every aspect of your life. Since prescription pain medications are limited by countless risks and side effects, many are turning to CBD to alleviate symptoms of chronic conditions, including fibromyalgia.
What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is an active ingredient found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is one of over 100 natural cannabinoids, but unlike its psychoactive counterpart tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD cannot get you high.
CBD interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a biological network that plays an important role in regulating our mood, energy levels, immune system, appetite, sleep, pain perception, and much more.
CBD can support the function of the ECS by modulating the activity of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. Scientists are yet to understand exactly how CBD works, but its many reported health benefits may also be because CBD can boost endocannabinoid levels, increase serotonin signalling, and even interact with some pain receptors.
How CBD could help fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that typically, but not exclusively, affects women. It is a poorly understood and under-researched condition, so there is currently no known cause or cure. Those living with fibromyalgia experience chronic pain, extreme tiredness and fatigue, sleeping problems, and ‘brain fog’.
Being such an isolating and misunderstood condition, many people living with fibromyalgia have taken to the internet and social media to voice their experiences and to learn from others. There are countless blogs, forums, Instagram pages, and podcasts where so-called ‘Fibro Warriors’ share their tips for managing the condition.
One hugely popular way to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms is to take CBD or cannabis products. Thousands have found CBD to be a godsend in reducing pain and inflammation, improving moods and sleep, and helping to combat fibromyalgia fatigue. And there’s some promising scientific evidence to support this.
How does it work?
Clinical research into fibromyalgia is scarce, but it is thought that the condition occurs as a result of a chemical imbalance in the nervous system. One study has even proposed that an endocannabinoid deficiency may contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms.
Our ECS is responsible for maintaining a homeostatic balance in the body, particularly between the immune system and the nervous system. So CBD, by helping to regulate ECS activity, may offer a helping hand in alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
There are numerous ways in which CBD is thought to have therapeutic action. Firstly, primarily through its interaction with CB2 receptors, CBD has potent anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to reduce immune cell activity and lower levels of inflammatory signalling molecules, so it may help to relieve inflammatory pain.
For many, CBD can be an effective pain relief, particularly for neuropathic pain. It is thought that CBD may interrupt the nerve pathways that cause us to feel pain, so CBD is an ideal candidate for managing chronic pain.
CBD can also be hugely beneficial to our mental well-being. It is not uncommon for people living with fibromyalgia to experience anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. CBD, by activating serotonin receptors, can increase the signalling of serotonin in our brain. Since our mood is hugely dependant on our serotonin levels, CBD may help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
On top of this, CBD can be used as a natural sleep aid, so it may help to remedy some of the sleeping problems often seen with fibromyalgia. Scientists aren’t entirely sure how it works, but either by reducing pain or boosting our serotonin, CBD may help with insomnia.
Is CBD effective for fibromyalgia symptoms?
Cannabis has shown to have a significant positive effect on fibromyalgia symptoms, but there hasn’t yet been much research into the effect of CBD alone. However, high CBD/low THC strains of cannabis seem to be more effective at managing pain than high THC/low CBD strains, which is some pretty solid evidence of CBD’s pain-relieving properties.
But since most of the research looks at CBD and THC together, scientists can’t say for certain that CBD is entirely responsible for the positive effects seen. It may be that CBD works best alongside other cannabinoids, thanks to the entourage effect.
There is, however, an abundance of anecdotal evidence to say that CBD works. In a survey of 2701 people with fibromyalgia, 30-40% of CBD users reported that it gave them ‘much or very much relief’ from all symptoms.
There is a global opioid crisis and an urgent need for safer pain management options. CBD is natural, well-tolerated, non-psychoactive, and inherently safe. It can also help to improve general health and wellbeing, which cannot be said for strong prescription painkillers. The research may still be in its infancy, but CBD is already helping people to reduce or stop opioid use.
How to use CBD for fibromyalgia
CBD and cannabis-based products are not yet approved treatment options for fibromyalgia, but they are widely available for anyone who thinks that they could help. Still, there is a lot of confusion over whether CBD is legal. In the UK, THC remains an illegal substance. CBD products must contain trace amounts of THC (less than 0.2%) for them to be legally sold, but your options are far from limited:
Oils are probably the most popular way to take CBD. By dropping it under the tongue, CBD can enter the bloodstream quickly, so the benefits can be felt almost immediately. There are a huge variety of oils available. If you’re not sure whether full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolate will be best for you, take a look at our beginner’s guide to CBD.
Gummies & capsules
The taste of CBD oil isn’t for everyone! If you would prefer a more consistent and convenient dose of CBD, gummies and capsules may be your best bet. Oral CBD products typically contain lower doses, but when taken daily, CBD accumulates in your system over time, allowing its beneficial effects to gradually build.
CBD-infused gels and creams are a great option for those seeking direct pain relief. When applied to the skin, CBD can help to relieve pain and inflammation in the problem area.
Vaping is another quick way to get CBD into the bloodstream. A vape is also portable, so it can provide pain relief on the go. But it is important to consider that the long-term effects of vaping are not fully understood, so approach this method with caution.
Is CBD safe to take for fibromyalgia?
The World Health Organisation has said that CBD is a safe and well-tolerated substance, even at high doses. The only reported side effects include nausea, appetite changes, and fatigue, but these are rare and minor in comparison to many prescription drugs.
It is, however, important to speak to your doctor before choosing to take CBD, especially if you’re on medication. This is because CBD has been shown to interact with some other drugs, which can be harmful to our liver. If you feel as though CBD could benefit you more than the medication that you are currently on, do not make the switch until you have spoken to a professional.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a medication that can alleviate quite as many fibromyalgia symptoms as CBD appears to. It may not be a quick-fix for chronic pain, but it could make living with fibromyalgia that bit easier– it’s certainly worth giving CBD a go.