Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body and can severely impact a patient’s quality of life. Here, Steven explains how cannabis has helped him cope.
“For me it was the insomnia that came with the pain, that then led to everything spiralling out of control in a repetitive cycle,” says Steven.
“You were in pain so you couldn’t sleep, which would lead to fatigue and exhaustion, which again contributes to the level of pain you are in, which leads to anxiety and depression.
“The symptoms of fibromyalgia are like a runaway train that you just can’t stop.”
Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although it affects around seven times as many women as men.
It typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50 but can actually occur at any point in your life and can also affect children.
It is estimated that one in 20 of the population may be affected by fibromyalgia to some degree, but it is difficult to give an exact number as the condition is tricky to diagnose. There is no specific test, and the symptoms can be similar to many other conditions.
The potentially debilitating effects can include headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), brain fog, muscle stiffness, extreme fatigue, increased and acute sensitivity to pain and difficulty sleeping amongst many others.
Steven was struck down by the disabling condition in his prime.
“Fibromyalgia arrived during a very stressful period in my life, triggered by a car crash,” he says.
“Four months later I was admitted to hospital having difficulties with walking and pain in my back, hips and legs.
“I had already exhausted all other common painkillers because of the treatment I had received for FSH muscular dystrophy that had started a year before.”
Cannabis medicines are increasingly being turned to for the treatment of fibromyalgia, when traditional medicines are no longer offering any relief.
Dr Anthony Ordman, senior clinical adviser and hon. medical director at Integro Clinics explains: “This can be a very troublesome condition and we frequently see it presented in rheumatology clinics, because it produces disabling tight muscle spasms, which patients feel must be coming from their joints or bones.
“There is no conventional medicine to treat fibromyalgia. Nerve pain medicines and anti-depressant medicines are often tried and these sometimes do help, but often can add their own side effects to the patient’s difficulties.
“Cannabis medicines can offer a potentially effective treatment as they re-balance and regulate the human body’s natural endo-cannabidiol system.
“This system can become disturbed by long term stress, and sleep deprivation, and individual genes may make some people more prone to fibromyalgia than others.”
Dr Ordman continues: “I am very interested in the relationship between impaired sleep and fibromyalgia stress and psychological trauma, which can lead to highly disturbed sleep patterns.
“Stress can prevent patients failing to reach Stages 3 and 4 of deep sleep during which the body normally repairs itself.
“Over time this can lead to physical and mental fatigue resulting in fibromyalgia symptoms.”
While conventional methods of treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), antidepressants and painkillers may all be helpful, an individually-tailored cannabis treatment plan from a doctor specialising in cannabis medicines can result in a significant reduction of pain and an improvement in quality of life.
Other medicines can be carefully reduced or stopped.
“I got my first medical cannabis prescription in June 2019 and it was the best decision I’ve ever made to treat my illness,” Steven continues.
“Overtime, the brain fog that I was perpetually in receded, and I was able to use cannabis to manage my pain.
He says: “I can compare my fibromyalgia with a volcano that was bubbling and active – the cannabis soothed and quietened it.
“It allowed my stiffness and fatigue to reduce, and my body began to recover and flourish. Whole aspects of my personality that had switched off returned. Mentally and physically, I was healing, and I had the space to be me.”
Having access to a legal prescription rather than relying on illicit cannabis was also a vital part of Steven’s treatment.
“The consistent quality and regular supply of the medical cannabis as opposed to black market cannabis, was vital as it allowed me to get a constant level of relief that really showed its ability to rebalance a vulnerable body and mind,” he says.
“With each month of use, symptoms would reduce or completely go and my kids all commented on the massive change in my energy levels.
“I finally reached a position where I was managing every aspect of the illness. I was still having symptoms, but they were far reduced, localised and manageable.
“It was like turning a forest fire that was destructive and damaging to everything around it, into a campfire you could sit around. The fire is still hot and can burn, but it does not get out of control.”
Steven adds: “I feel protected on cannabis medicine, protected against triggers and best placed to deal with the continuous challenges this condition brings.
“For me medical cannabis is seriously life-changing stuff.”
Integro Clinics always recommend remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicine, adds Dr Ordman, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.
If you would like further information or to speak to Dr Anthony Ordman please contact Integro Clinics:
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Watch Steven’s full story here
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