Cannabinoids in Fibromyalgia

Chronic, strong to severe pain that often lasts for months and is difficult to classify – this is how fibromyalgia syndrome typically presents itself. The rheumatic disease causes pain in different parts of the body – mostly near joints and in muscles. Women are affected six to seven times more often than men. The disease is benign, but the suffering of those affected is high.

Many patients have gone through a grueling odyssey before they are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Those affected run from doctor’s office to doctor’s office and spend many hours in waiting rooms. Often they are not taken seriously because the cause of their complaints cannot be clearly determined. With the help of laboratory values the Fibromyalgie syndrome cannot be proven. Imaging diagnostics such as ultrasound or MRI do not yield any results either.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

The disease is a complex pain syndrome. The complaints / symptoms can occur in the muscles as well as in the connective tissue of the entire body. Fibromyalgia never affects the joints themselves, but causes pain in the surrounding areas – i.e. around the shoulders, elbows, hands, knees, hips or ankles. In addition, there are often sleep disturbances, exhaustion and muscle cramps. Sufferers feel physically weakened and mentally fatigued. Many react hypersensitively to stimuli or have emotional complaints (inner restlessness, feelings of anxiety or dejection, even depression).

Other complaints / symptoms that may occur in connection with fibromyalgia syndrome:

  • headache / migraine
  • tachycardia, shortness of breath
  • stomach and intestinal complaints
  • Sensory disturbances in the hands and feet
  • menstrual problems
  • memory and concentration disorders
  • increased sensitivity to pain, especially to pressure on the skin

The causes of fibromyalgia are not yet fully understood. Experts assume that the perception of pain is altered in those affected, so that they perceive stimuli faster and more strongly. The nerve fibers in the muscle tissue may also be altered.

Fibromyalgia and Cannabinoids: Less Pain

Studies show that cannabinoids can be a useful therapeutic option for patients with fibromyalgia. A scientific team surveyed fibromyalgia patients who used cannabis. The study suggests that the pain intensity of those affected decreased significantly, from a mean pain scale score of 9.0 at baseline to 5.0 [1].

Improving the quality of life

A small, eight-week study looked at the effect of a high-dose THC extract on the symptoms and quality of life of 17 Brazilian women. The results showed not only a significant reduction in pain among the participating women, but also a significant improvement in subjective well-being, fatigue and depression. „Phytocannabinoids can be a low-cost and well-tolerated therapy to reduce symptoms and increase the quality of life of patients with fibromyalgia.,” according to the study’s authors. [2]

Fibromyalgia – is CBD a substitute for painkillers?

A recent, large online survey investigated the exciting question of the extent to which painkillers for fibromyalgia can be replaced by cannabidiol (CBD). CBD – like THC – is an active ingredient in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, however, CBD does not produce intoxication, it does not have a psychotropic effect.

The scientific team around Kevin Boehnke from the University of Michigan and the Fibromyalgia Association of California came to the conclusion that around three quarters of the respondents replaced medications such as opioids, gabapentanoids and benzodiazepines with CBD. The majority of patients* using CBD were able to reduce or even discontinue the amount of pain medication they were taking as a result. Individuals reported that both their general condition and pain symptoms improved. [3]


[1] Sagy, I.; Bar-Lev Schleider, L.; Abu-Shakra, M.; Novack, V. Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia. J. Clin. Med. 2019, 8, 807. doi: 10.3390/jcm8060807

[2] Chaves C, Bittencourt PCT, Pelegrini A. Ingestion of a THC-Rich Cannabis Oil in People with Fibromyalgia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Pain Med. 2020 Oct 1;21(10):2212-2218. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnaa303. PMID: 33118602; PMCID: PMC7593796.

[3] Boehnke KF, Gagnier JJ, Matallana L, Williams DA. Substituting Cannabidiol for Opioids and Pain Medications Among Individuals With Fibromyalgia: A Large Online Survey. J Pain. 2021 Nov;22(11):1418-1428. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2021.04.011. Epub 2021 May 13. PMID: 33992787; PMCID: PMC8578153.

About Gesa Riedewald

Gesa Riedewald is the managing director of Kalapa Germany. She has been working as a medical writer on the topic of pharmaceutical cannabis since 2017 and has years of experience in the healthcare sector.

Gesa Riedewald ist die Geschäftsführerin von Kalapa Deutschland. Sie ist bereits seit 2017 als medical writer für das Thema Cannabis als Medizin tätig und besitzt jahrelange Erfahrung im Bereich Healthcare.