“I’ve been using cannabidiol (CBD) for over a year now, and I’m amazed at the difference…,” writes Robin Dix in her column for Fibromyalgia News Today. “CBD changed everything for me,” said Fiona Henry, sharing her story on the blog Jenny In Neverland. “It is not a miracle cure, but it really does make such a huge difference to my ability to manage the condition.”

This is just one of the countless stories of people using CBD to help manage their fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia or know someone who does, here’s what you should know about the condition and how to use CBD as a helpful dietary supplement.

WHAT IS FIBROMYALGIA?

According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in the bones and muscles (musculoskeletal pain) and fatigue, cognitive challenges (such as mood, difficulty focusing, and memory issues), and sleep disturbances. Many people with fibromyalgia have “regions of pain,” or particular areas that are more painful than others.

Fibromyalgia often occurs alongside other ailments. Some of these include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Migraines or different types of headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome)
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ disorder)

Have you ever wildly misinterpreted a text’s tone and assumed someone was upset with you based on minimalist wording and lack of emojis? That’s kind of what the brain is doing in a person with fibromyalgia.

According to Healthline and the Mayo Clinic, researchers think fibromyalgia affects how the brain processes pain. Specifically, “the brain and nerves may misinterpret or overreact to normal pain signals,” possibly because repeated nerve stimulation causes an imbalance in certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters).

WHAT CAUSES FIBROMYALGIA?

No one knows for sure what causes fibromyalgia. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is most likely a result of a few factors:

  • Genetics: Fibromyalgia tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component.
  • Infections: Certain illnesses seem to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
  • Physical or Emotional Trauma: Sometimes, a physical trauma, such as a car accident or surgery, can trigger it. Emotionally traumatic events or chronic stress may cause it as well. Other times, however, it seems to develop with no noticeable catalyst.

As Healthline explains, fibromyalgia symptoms resemble those of other conditions, and there are no specific tests to confirm fibromyalgia as the culprit. Unfortunately, this means the condition is frequently misdiagnosed. In the past, some healthcare providers were skeptical fibromyalgia existed at all.

The good news is, although there’s still much to learn, our understanding of fibromyalgia has significantly improved. Although there is still no known cure, there are ways to reduce symptoms and enhance the quality of life.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there is no definite way to prevent fibromyalgia. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk, including remaining as healthy as possible and minimizing stress.

If you do develop the condition, there are many ways to help manage it, including dietary and lifestyle changes, stress reduction techniques, and getting adequate sleep. Certain therapies, such as massage and acupuncture, may help too. Nutritional supplements like CBD and 5-HTP show promise in helping keep body systems operating optimally, so your body might be better prepared to handle the effects of the disorder.

HOW CBD CAN SUPPORT FIBROMYALGIA SUFFERERS

CBD (cannabidiol) is a naturally-occurring cannabinoid sourced from the cannabis plant. It influences the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), an intricate, vast network of endocannabinoids and receptors responsible for several functions and processes, including pain sensation and immune function. CBD essentially helps the ECS work more effectively. This can result in a range of benefits that include supportiing healthy inflammatory response, slee patterns, and ability to focus.

CBD can provide a safe, natural supplement to prescription painkillers, such as opioids, which have a high risk of adverse side effects.

Side effects can be very serious and include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Addiction.

Many prescription painkillers also cause a brain fog similar to that caused by fibromyalgia. For a lot of CBD users, they experience the opposite effect. CBD seems to help them think more clearly and concentrate better.

A review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2018 assessed multiple studies conducted between 1975 and March 2018 examining the effects of CBD on pain, including cancer pain, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia. Researchers concluded that CBD was effective for pain management and has a very low risk of side effects based on the results of these studies.

Multiple other studies have produced similar findings regarding CBD’s potential to support our pain response. This includes a 2016 study in the Swiss Journal “Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences” that found therapies that influence the ECS’ CB2 receptors (like CBD) reduced inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD have been well-documented in other studies and journals as well.

A recent study published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology confirmed CBD’s effectiveness in treating multiple fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, insomnia, and depression, and anxiety. In this study, researchers observed the effects of cannabis on 100 patients who were consistently taking painkillers without getting much relief. In this study, almost half (47%) of the patients found enough relief from cannabis to reduce or cease painkiller use.

You can take CBD orally, in the form of an oil, tincture, capsule, or edible, or apply it topically as you desire.