If you have fibromyalgia, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of cannabidiol (CBD) by now.
Maybe you’ve even wondered if it could help you. After all, one of the things hemp extract is best known for is its ability to alleviate different types of pain. But does it actually work?
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and a variety of other symptoms.
Despite affecting around 10 million adults in the U.S., it’s a poorly understood condition, with no known cause or cure. Risk factors for fibromyalgia include autoimmune diseases, traumatic events, and central nervous system problems.
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, some people successfully manage symptoms through exercise, acupuncture, physical therapy, and anti-depressants. However, these limited treatment options don’t work for everyone, and leave many frustrated and desperate for relief. As a result, cannabis is a popular alternative.
But while it’s a safer – and often more effective – choice than opioids and other pain medicines, cannabis causes mind-altering effects that can make it hard to function. Not to mention, it’s illegal or highly regulated in most places.
Enter CBD: a legal way to experience many of the health benefits of cannabis, without the high.
What Is CBD?
CBD belongs to a family called cannabinoids, which are substances derived from the cannabis plant. There are over 100 cannabinoids, including the infamous THC, and others that are gaining in popularity, like CBG and CBN.
THC and CBD are by far the most concentrated cannabinoids, making them easy to extract and sell as stand-alone products. Together, these two cannabinoids are responsible for many of the effects attributed to marijuana, although CBD offers purely therapeutic benefits. In other words, it won’t get you high, unlike THC.
At first glance, cannabinoids seem too good to be true. But there’s a scientific explanation for why they produce so many effects: the endocannabinoid system. Despite the name, the endocannabinoid system is actually found in the human body, not the cannabis plant. This network of receptors and neurotransmitters (called endocannabinoids) regulates mood, digestion, pain, and other processes.
Like other neurotransmitters, though, endocannabinoid levels can become unbalanced. In fact, endocannabinoid deficiencies have been linked to fibromyalgia and many other health problems. That’s where cannabinoids come in; they mimic these neurotransmitters and normalize endocannabinoid levels. As a result, CBD and other cannabinoids offer an impressive list of health benefits.
Can CBD Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
With symptoms that range from cognitive to digestive, fibromyalgia is a condition that can affect the entire body. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that many people with fibromyalgia find relief with cannabis, including marijuana and hemp extracts like CBD.
Unfortunately, there isn’t abundant research on the direct effectiveness of CBD for treating fibromyalgia specifically. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from people with fibromyalgia who use cannabis and its related products, as well as research supporting the use of CBD for many problems that are associated with fibromyalgia. Most notably, CBD can provide strong pain relief for muscle, joint and nerve pain, as well as headaches. Pain is often one of the most debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia, and often doesn’t respond well to medication.
Sleep problems, CBD and fibromyalgia
Along with pain, sleep problems are one of the diagnostic markers of fibromyalgia; in other words, just about every fibromyalgia sufferer has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Waking up feeling unrefreshed is another common issue. To add insult to injury, lack of sleep can worsen other symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as pain, fatigue, depression, brain fog, and digestive problems.
The good news is that CBD can improve sleep quality and duration, and even help you fall asleep faster. If your lack of sleep is the result of nightmares due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a condition frequently found alongside fibromyalgia – then you’ll be glad to hear that CBD can also relieve many symptoms of PTSD, including nightmares. The sleep benefits of CBD are significant for people with fibromyalgia, since better sleep can lead to a reduction in symptoms, while improving overall health.
Fibromyalgia, IBS, and beyond
Along with its sleep benefits, CBD is helpful for gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is linked to fibromyalgia. Not only does CBD reduce stomach pain, but it can also improve digestion, reduce nausea, and stimulate the appetite – a particularly helpful effect if you’re unable to eat due to pain, spasms, or nausea.
If you’re still not convinced, CBD is also an antioxidant with antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties as well as benefits for your heart and bones. Considering that fibromyalgia is associated with depression, anxiety, heart disease, and osteoporosis, these benefits make CBD even more appealing. All in all, CBD has strong potential for managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia and improving quality of life.
Using CBD and Other Supplements Together
One of the lesser known facts about fibromyalgia is that it often comes with vitamin deficiencies, which can worsen symptoms. It’s estimated that at least 25% of fibromyalgia patients are deficient in vitamin D, which can cause symptoms like fatigue, depression, and widespread pain – sound familiar? But even if you don’t have a deficiency, taking certain supplements can be beneficial for fibromyalgia.
Folic acid, for example, can alleviate depression, lower blood pressure, and enhance cognition, making it especially useful for managing brain fog. Similarly, zinc is a powerful supplement to include in your fibromyalgia treatment regimen; studies show it can boost brain function, reduce pain, and improve sleep. It also has antidepressant properties, and may be able to prevent heart disease.
Another supplement to consider is bacopa, an herb with a long history in ayurvedic and ancient Chinese medicine. Bacopa’s main appeal for fibromyalgia is its ability to help with brain fog. In fact, it’s so good at enhancing cognition – especially memory, learning, and concentration – that bacopa is often used in managing ADHD symptoms. Bacopa also shows promise as a potential anti-depressant and sleep aid.
If you’re wondering whether you can combine all of these different supplements with CBD, the answer is yes. And thanks to specialized CBD blends for fibromyalgia, it’s easier than ever to try all these supplements. Of course, if you just want CBD alone, it’s increasingly easy to find tinctures, edibles, and more online, all made from high-quality hemp grown with no pesticides, herbicides, or heavy metals.
At Every Day Optimal. we hope you’ll explore all the tools available to you, and find relief from this challenging, and painful condition.