Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating condition. The National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) estimates that in the United States alone, about 10 million people have this condition. But the good news is that there are treatments available for people with this condition. CBD oil is gaining popularity as a natural remedy for the condition and its symptoms.
Before learning how CBD can help people with this condition, it is important to understand first what this condition is and how it affects the body.
There are several symptoms of fibromyalgia. The main characteristic of this problem is muscle pain, fatigue, and joint pain. Because these are very general symptoms, the disease can sometimes be misdiagnosed. The symptoms will vary from person to person.
- Pain throughout the body – This condition causes pain over the entire body. Depending on the person, the pain can be described as throbbing, dull, sharp, or deep. Often, this pain is felt in the muscles and in the joint areas. The pain may not be consistent for some people.
- Tender spots – Some people have pain that is concentrated in one area. Usually, these areas are around the joints. The pain usually intensifies when the patient presses on the area. In a healthy individual, pressing on these areas only cause pressure, but in an individual with fibromyalgia, pressing on the area hurts. While it may feel like the joints are what hurts, it is actually the tissue around the joints that is hurting.
- Stiffness in the morning – This condition can cause people to feel like they need to “loosen up” in the morning when they wake up. Sometimes the stiffness lasts a few minutes, and other times it can last all day.
- Fatigue – Even after getting a good night’s sleep, people with fibromyalgia often report feeling exhausted and drained. Even household chores such as making dinner or putting away laundry can leave people with the condition feeling fatigued.
- Tingling in the hands and feet – This condition can lead to tingling or even swelling in the feet and in the hands. This sensation is known as paresthesia, and it can be the most intense in the morning. Usually, paresthesia happens randomly and without warning. However, it does not usually prevent individuals from doing things.
- Urination problems – This condition can cause people to feel like they have to urinate a lot. They may also suffer from a leaky bladder or pain during urination.
- Difficulty sleeping – Because of the pain this condition causes, it can be difficult for patients to get enough sleep at night. However, studies have shown that fibromyalgia also causes the brain to be more active during sleep, similar to the way it is when it is awake. This means that people with this condition experience lighter sleep than healthy individuals.
Complications of Fibromyalgia
This condition can also lead to other complications in individuals who have it.
When people have fibromyalgia, they are diagnosed with a mood disorder more than half of the time. Many people with the condition suffer from anxiety or depression, or both. This is often because of the stress of dealing with the condition. The exhaustion from fibromyalgia can cause some individuals to become withdrawn, which can lead to depression. People who have this disorder can have difficulties with short-term memory.
About two in five people with fibromyalgia also suffer from headaches and migraines. These are usually caused by tension or pain in the neck and back. People who have tender spots in the head and neck from the condition may also be more likely to have headaches.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
About two-thirds of people with this condition also suffer from IBS. It is not understood how the two conditions are related. However, in both conditions, the sense of pain in the brain is enhanced. This means people with these conditions feel pain more than most people.
People who have fibromyalgia often have gas, diarrhea, or constipation. They may also feel nauseous and more bloated.
Because this condition has many symptoms, and symptoms are different depending on the person, it may take some time before a doctor properly diagnoses an individual. The symptoms can also resemble other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism. Because there are no tests that can be done in the lab for this condition, it can be more difficult to diagnose it.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, three criteria must be met to diagnose this condition.
- At least one or more of 19 body parts must have been in pain in the past week, and the patient must be experiencing trouble sleeping or fatigue.
- The symptoms must have been going on for at least three months.
- There must not be any other problem that could explain these symptoms.
If these three criteria have all been met, a doctor can diagnose a patient with this condition. Because any other health problems must first be ruled out, it can take quite some time before an individual is diagnosed with this condition. In the meantime, he or she can suffer from problems with sleep and energy levels that may interfere with daily life.
It is still not entirely known what causes fibromyalgia, but it can begin after surgery, trauma such as an accident, or much stress. However, in other cases, the symptoms do not seem to have a cause and simply start on their own. Some researchers believe the condition may be caused by a problem in how the brain handles pain signals sent by the spinal cord.
Sometimes people who have this condition have an unusually high number of cells that carry pain signals to the brain. At the same time, they may have an unusually low number of cells that slow down the signals of pain. There are a few factors that may contribute to people getting this condition.
- Genetics: If a family member has had this condition, they may pass on the genes that cause pain. It is also possible that they will pass on genes that cause depression and anxiety, which can cause even more pain in the individual.
- Emotional or physical abuse in childhood: When children are abused either emotionally or physically, the brain changes the way it handles stress and anxiety. This may make it more likely for the children to develop fibromyalgia later in life.
- Gender: While researchers do not know why, women are more likely to develop this condition than men are. It may be in part because of the different ways that women react to pain.
- Inactivity: Exercise has many benefits and preventing this painful condition can be one of them. It is known that exercising can help reduce the pain of this condition, and it may be a way to prevent it altogether.
- Anxiety or depression: It is not known if fibromyalgia causes anxiety and depression, or if anxiety and depression cause this condition. However, mood disorders do seem to go hand in hand with this condition.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: Having post-traumatic stress disorder, which often happens after witnessing or being part of a terrible event, is linked to this condition for some people.
- Other diseases: Diseases that cause infection can make someone more likely to get this condition. Arthritis can also make it more likely to get this condition.
It can be difficult for patients to try to manage fibromyalgia on their own. While there is no cure for this condition, managing the symptoms can help improve a patient’s quality of life.
A doctor may recommend drugs to help manage symptoms. Painkillers are often recommended, and some over-the-counter pain medications may help to provide relief. Other medications doctors may prescribe include anti-depressants such as milnacipran, Savella, Cymbalta, or duloxetine. Doctors may also prescribe some anti-seizure medications Neurontin, Lyrica, or pregabalin. All of these medications can help to reduce pain from this condition.
The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) does not recommend using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat this condition. These drugs are usually used to treat inflammation, and they can help to decrease pain as well. However, because NSAIDs work by blocking specific enzymes that the body uses to respond to pain, it is unclear if they would work for fibromyalgia. Because they can cause serious side effects and their effectiveness is unknown, the EULAR recommends that people suffering from this condition stick with other medications and treatments.
Physical exercise may help some patients reduce pain, soreness, and tenderness. Getting active can also help individuals sleep better at night because they got more tired during the day. Good exercises include aerobic exercise, strength training, and resistance training. It is important for patients to consistently exercise so they can see less pain from their condition.
Making changes to the diet can help ease symptoms of this condition in some cases. Eating high-energy, low-sugar foods such as beans, oatmeal, nuts, and avocado can help individuals power through their days.
One study from 2014 showed that people who are more sensitive to gluten could be more likely to develop this condition. Even if they do not have celiac disease, the study showed that taking gluten out of the diet helped reduce symptoms of pain.
What Is CBD?
CBD oil is an extract that comes from the hemp plant. It is very high in CBD, and unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, it does not give the user a feeling of being high. CBD oil that comes from the hemp plant is only allowed to have 0.3 percent or less of THC, and at this tiny amount, users will not get high.
How CBD Works
CBD works with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which consists of a complex network of cannabinoid receptors and neurotransmitters. The ECS has cannabinoid receptors all over the body, including the brain. The ECS is responsible for functions such as pain, the immune response, memory, and stress, among other functions. CBD works with the ECS to improve its function.
Some researchers believe the ECS can suffer from an endocannabinoid deficiency. This means that the ECS has low endocannabinoid levels, which can lead to certain health problems developing in the body. Having an endocannabinoid deficiency could explain why some people get conditions such as fibromyalgia, IBS, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Types of CBD
There are a few types of CBD and ways to get them. Full-spectrum CBD contains CBD along with other chemical compounds of the cannabis plant in it. Using full-spectrum CBD can cause an entourage effect, which means the compound is more effective because the different cannabinoids work together. On the other hand, CBD isolate contains only CBD. People who must take routine drug tests for work may want to consider using CBD isolate, so they do not give a false positive for marijuana.
A tincture is made by adding the extract from the marijuana plant to alcohol. They are mostly used to relieve pain or anxiety. One of the benefits of a tincture is that it is quickly absorbed into the body when it is used under the individual’s tongue. Tinctures come with a dropper that allows for precise measurements by the user.
Is CBD Legal?
The legality of CBD can be a bit of a legal gray area in some locations. On a federal level, there are two forms of the cannabis plant that are recognized. The hemp plant, which contains high levels of CBD, is legal. On the other hand, the marijuana plant, which can contain 30 percent or more of tetrahydrocannabinol, is not legal. CBD oil that comes from the marijuana plant can contain 5 percent to 20 percent of THC, and this can have some psychoactive effects.
However, state laws vary. The 2018 Farm Bill made CBD from the hemp plant legal on the federal level as long as the CBD contains less than 0.3 percent of THC. However, for that hemp-derived CBD to be legal, it must come from a hemp plant grown by a licensed grower who is following the 2018 Farm Bill’s regulations. If a licensed grower did not grow it, it is still illegal.
However, state laws can vary from the federal laws. In some states, even CBD derived from hemp plants is illegal. Other states recognize the value of medical cannabis, and so they allow the use of medical marijuana, as long as it is low in THC and high in CBD.
Because laws can vary from state to state, it is important for individuals who are traveling to check the state laws of each state they plan to visit or drive through.
Use of CBD
CBD oil can treat a huge variety of diseases and other health problems. The benefits of CBD can help many individuals suffering from complications.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Many people with this condition also suffer from IBS. In fact, about 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia also have IBS. IBS causes problems such as pain in the abdomen, vomiting, and diarrhea. A deficiency in endocannabinoids may be part of the cause of IBS, and CBD can help the body produce more of the endocannabinoids it needs. This helps stimulate the body to ease the symptoms of IBS.
CBD oil can also help decrease depression. When a person is depressed, he or she does not produce enough serotonin. Serotonin is sometimes known as the “happy chemical” because it contributes to a feeling of well-being in an individual. Not having enough serotonin can lead to depression.
While CBD oil most likely does not help the body produce more serotonin, research shows that it can help the serotonin receptors in the brain respond to the serotonin that is already in the body. Unlike antidepressants, CBD does not have as many undesirable effects.
CBD can have a calming effect on the user. A 2015 review of current research showed that CBD oil could help individuals with many types of anxiety, including social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, and panic disorder.
Pain Relief and Chronic Pain
One of the things fibromyalgia is most well-known for is the pain it causes individuals. CBD is well-known for its role in reducing pain for any number of painful conditions. Numerous studies back up the effectiveness of CBD for this.
One study from 2016 looked at how CBD improved pain levels in rats that had arthritis. The researchers gave the rats CBD gel for four days in a row. The rats that received more CBD experienced less pain than the rats who received less of the cannabinoid.
However, the study also found that rats who received significantly more CBD – 62mg of CBD as opposed to 6mg – did not experience significantly different results than the rats that received 6mg. This suggests that CBD is effective up to a point, but after that point, people will not experience any added health benefits from more CBD. Each person taking CBD should experiment with different amounts to find his or her ideal dosage.
Another study suggested that CBD and THC can help with migraine headaches. In the first phase of this study, individuals in the study took 200mg of a CBD compound that contained 9 percent of CBD. The levels of acute pain fell by 55 percent.
In the second phase of the study, participants took 200mg of a compound containing both CBD and its psychoactive counterpart. These patients saw the number of their migraine headache attacks drop by just over 40 percent. While the study mainly focused on the use of CBD and THC together, it also shows that CBD by itself can benefit individuals suffering from migraines.
This study found that the CBD and THC combination was a little more effective than a tricyclic antidepressant, amitriptyline.
The effects of CBD can relieve pain because it works with the ECS to change the way the brain processes the feeling of pain.
Many people who have fibromyalgia do not get enough sleep at night. This may be because the condition causes the brain to be too active during the night. Not getting enough sleep leads to a vicious circle because exhaustion can make the symptoms of this condition worse.
The good news is that hemp oil can help users get a better night’s rest. This is because CBD can cause the user to feel drowsier and more relaxed. Research backs up the effectiveness of CBD for insomnia. A 2019 study looked at how CBD could affect sleep in 72 individuals. Each participant was given 25mg of CBD every day for a month. At the end of that time, more than 65 percent of the group reported that they were experiencing better sleep at night.
CBD can also affect the sleep cycle. A 2014 study in Parkinson’s patients showed that CBD improved the REM sleep cycle in these patients. This means that CBD may be able to help people reach a deeper, more restful stage of sleep.
Some people with fibromyalgia may also suffer from sleepiness during the day. This is another sign that they are not getting enough sleep at night. CBD can help with grogginess by helping the user feel more awake during the day.
While the research backs up the effectiveness of CBD at helping patients with sleep-related problems, it is still not entirely known how or why CBD helps individuals in this way. More research is needed on how CBD helps the sleep cycle. However, it is believed that by treating the causes of insomnia, such as anxiety and pain, CBD helps users to get a better night’s rest.
Individuals who want to use CBD to help improve their sleep cycles can find CBD products that are especially for nighttime use. These products are usually oils, tinctures, or gummies that have added melatonin in them to promote a good night’s rest. Melatonin is naturally produced in the body in the evening, and it helps to quiet the body so that it can prepare for sleep.
Side Effects of CBD
While CBD has limited side effects when compared to more traditional over-the-counter and prescription medications, it can still cause changes for some individuals.
- Dry mouth: CBD is known to decrease saliva production in some people. This can result in having a dry mouth. Drinking more water and beverages while using CBD can help to reduce this side effect.
- Sleepiness: Because of its calming effects, CBD can cause users to feel drowsier. However, for people who have fibromyalgia who are having difficulty sleeping, this may not be an entirely undesirable effect.
- Mood swings: Because of the way CBD interacts with the brain, some users may feel more irritable after using CBD.
- Lower blood pressure: CBD can cause blood pressure in some individuals to drop a little lower than normal.
In addition, vaping cannabis products often causes more problems than it helps.
It is important for individuals taking prescription medication to consult with their doctors before beginning to use CBD. It is especially important for people who are taking prescription medications to consult with their doctors before starting to take CBD, as it can change the way some medications work. Individuals who are using prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs, or supplements in their diets should all be aware that CBD can interfere with these.
If an individual’s prescription medication has a “grapefruit warning,” they should use extra caution when considering whether or not to use CBD. This is because both CBD and grapefruit have enzymes that may interfere with the way the body metabolizes the medication.
Safety of CBD Products
CBD has been shown to be safe, with only a few relatively minor side effects. However, it is important to purchase products that are safe in themselves. The cannabis industry has become a billion-dollar industry, and many disreputable sellers who are hoping to turn a quick profit are getting into what they see as a lucrative business.
There are a few ways that CBD users can find safe products to use.
- Use organic products. Some cannabidiol oils can contain traces of harmful toxins, such as pesticides and herbicides. Choosing an organic product ensures that the cannabis plant has been grown using the most natural methods possible.
- Choose companies that send their products to a third-party lab for testing. When a company sends its products to an independent lab, customers can be sure that the product has been declared safe by a disinterested third party. This also ensures that products contain the amount of CBD that the company says they do, preventing customers from paying for more CBD oil than they are getting.
The Bottom Line
While fibromyalgia does not have a cure, CBD oil can help individuals manage their most debilitating symptoms. Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved CBD, individuals should start with a lower dosage and gradually work their way up. It is always a wise idea for individuals to consult with their doctors before beginning the use of CBD.