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Fibromyalgia and medical cannabis – where’s the evidence?

Many fibromyalgia patients have reported improvements in their symptoms – but what does the science say?



UK fibromyalgia: A hand holding a small brown bottle of CBD oil with another hand pouring oil from a dropper into it

Many patients have anecdotally reported seeing improvements in their fibromyalgia symptoms with medical cannabis – but what does the science say?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain throughout the body, along with fatigue, difficulty sleeping and difficulties with mental alertness – known as fibro-fog. 

The exact cause is unknown, although it affects up to seven times more women than men, and treatments are often limited to treating the symptoms with painkillers and antidepressants.

However, many fibromyalgia sufferers have turned to cannabis-based medicines to ease their symptoms, with positive effects.

In fact, several studies have shown that CBD in particular, can help relieve many of the issues caused by the condition, reducing reliance on over-the-counter drugs.

Fibromyalgia: A banner advert for the medical cannabis clinic

The evidence

In July 2021, leading UK pain consultant Dr Anthony Ordman explained to Cannabis Health why cannabis medicines were so useful in the treatment of fibromyalgia.

He said: “Whilst there is no one conventional medicine to treat fibromyalgia, often, anti-depressants and nerve pain medicine are tried.

“Although these medicines can sometimes help, they often have nasty side effects, which can leave patients suffering more. Cannabis medicines can offer a potentially extremely effective treatment as they re-balance and regulate the human body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) without leaving a patient with debilitating side effects.”

Dr Ordman’s comments have also been backed up by a number of studies. In a review of 313 studies, researchers found that: “The data suggest that the use of cannabinoids and cannabis carries limited side effects in the treatment of FM [fibromyalgia], and they can also improve some common and debilitating symptoms associated with FM, thus making them an adequate potential treatment option, when other treatment lines have been exhausted.”

Furthermore, another study published in September 2021 found that pain levels in fibromyalgia patients were reduced following the use of medical cannabis.

The research surveyed 319 patients about their use of medical cannabis products. Those with fibromyalgia accounted for 82 per cent of the group and reported a mean pain level reduction of 77 percent. They also reported sleep quality improvement of 78 per cent.

The data was published in the journal Pain Research and Management, leading the authors to conclude: “Cannabis should be seriously considered in every ‘chronic pain condition’ whenever the accepted modalities of treatment are insufficient for alleviating patient’s pain and sleep problems.”

As noted above, fibromyalgia is considerably more common in women than men, and often accompanies a condition known as chronic pelvic pain (CPP).

In November 2021, research showed women with fibromyalgia and CPP were using CBD to help with their symptoms, instead of pain medication.

The participants were given a survey distributed by the National Fibromyalgia Association in April and May 2020. The results were published in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, and revealed that more than a third of the women were current CBD users, 81 per cent of whom said the use had ‘improved their pain.’ A further 76 per cent of users said they were able to substitute CBD for other medications, including opioids, NSAIDS, gabapentinoids and benzodiazapams.

What’s next?

More research into the impact of cannabis on fibromyalgia symptoms is expected over the next 12 months.

One study, which is due to start early this year, will be led by Southern Cross University in Australia, will research the efficacy of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia.

Planned to run over a three-year period, the study will be conducted in three stages, starting with a literature review and survey. 

The final stage, a Phase 2 randomised controlled, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, is expected to begin recruitment in 2022 and uses medicinal cannabis versus a placebo for a three-month period with follow-ups for a further six months following the initial trial.

Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication.


Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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