Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. A diagnosis is made by checking the “tender points” for sensitivity and pain. The tender points are found on the neck, back, chest, elbows, hips and knees.
A fibromyalgia diagnosis can come at any time, but the usual age range is 20-55. Women are 80% more apt to have fibromyalgia than their male counterparts according to health research. There is still much unknown about the cause, but it is often brought on by physical or emotional trauma, fatigue or stress.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary from person to person but typically include:
• Widespread pain
• Sleep disorders and fatigue
• Lack of energy
• Memory or cognitive disorders
• Mood swings or depression
• Sensitivity to light or sound
Fibromyalgia and Inflammation
Inflammation in and of itself is not a bad thing. Acute inflammation is the body’s normal response to repair cells damaged by injury, allergic reactions or infection. Fibromyalgia, however, falls under the category of an inflammatory disorder or a chronic inflammation condition. This inflammation is what causes the pain and discomfort.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can significantly interfere with quality of life and sometimes even be debilitating. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to managing pain and other symptoms. Consider these aspects when managing fibromyalgia:
• Diet. Not surprisingly, an individual with fibromyalgia should be eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding sugar, refined flour, preservatives and any foods found to trigger symptoms. Fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors are vital, and whole grains, healthy fats and dairy, fish, poultry and lean meats are also suggested. The diet is focused on nutrition but also controlling inflammation. Some foods found to be especially useful in reducing inflammation are:
o Wild-caught salmon
o Green tea
o Olive oil
• Exercise. Physical activity is, of course, important in any healthy lifestyle routine. A combination of low-impact cardio such as walking and swimming, weight-bearing exercise, and stretching routines incorporating yoga or Pilates often help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
• Relaxation and sleep. Sleep disorders are a common problem with fibromyalgia. Getting a restful night’s sleep is important. Getting enough sleep may require specific medication, but relaxation techniques such as meditation can also help.
Fibromyalgia Pain Treatment Options
In addition to a healthy lifestyle, it is sometimes necessary to seek additional treatment for pain and other symptoms. Sufferers have several choices to consider:
• OTC. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help with aches and pains. There are also over the counter sleep aids for occasional use. Potential downsides exist with this option, however. In fact, the FDA issued warnings stating that NSAID drugs (like aspirin and ibuprofen) were linked to an increased risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack in 2005 and have reinforced these warnings more recently.
• Prescriptions. Lyrical and Cymbalta are two medications often prescribed for fibromyalgia. Anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed to manage depression and anxiety. Occasionally cortisone shots may also be given for pain. A common concern with these options is addiction.
• Natural Remedies. Both over-the-counter and prescription medication come with the possibility of side-effects, addictions and contraindications. Here are a few other natural alternative pain treatments that have few side-effects and often extra benefits:
o Herbs – Some of the best herbs for fibromyalgia are cayenne and turmeric for pain relief, Kava Kava and lavender for relaxation, and ginger as a stimulant.
o Chiropractic care or therapeutic massage
o Hemp and medical marijuana – Both hemp and medical marijuana are derived from the cannabis plant and have cannabinoids that reduce pain and inflammation. Marijuana is characterized by having levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It can have THC levels of .5% to 30% whereas hemp has less than .3%. THC is what gives the herb its reputation for the euphoric high, but it also relieves pain and anxiety. Hemp is believed to be a better alternative if the goal is pain relief and inflammation reduction without the “high.” Either form of cannabis can be taken in a variety of ways: smoked, ingested in food or tincture, or used topically. Patients have reported that medical marijuana is more effective at treating Fibromyalgia symptoms than the top prescription drugs prescribed by doctors.
Topical Hemp Use for Fibromyalgia
The aches and pains of fibromyalgia are thought to respond well to topical therapy. Many massage therapists and chiropractors use it because of its effectiveness. Topical hemp oil or serum is typically made from the oil of the seed or root. Topical hemp provides a concentrated level of the CBDs. The topical applications work on the cellular level. By penetrating deeply into the skin, it signals the C2 receptors in the nucleus of the cell to produce a protein that turns off the acid that causes inflammation.
There is still much to learn about fibromyalgia and the efficacy of hemp as a pain treatment. However, information and resources are available. With a healthy lifestyle and appropriate pain management methods, it is a disorder that can be managed.