Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that is difficult to diagnose and whose cause is unknown. Patients have symptoms of musculoskeletal pain, chronic fatigue, and tender spots in the neck, spine, shoulders and hips. Patients may also have morning stiffness, insomnia, and irritable bowel syndrome. The pain is often debilitating and not very well controlled by conventional medications. Subsequently, many patients also develop symptoms of depression and anxiety. Fibromyalgia may be caused by immune system problems, disturbance in brain chemistry, sleep disturbances, Epstein-Barr Virus, stress, food allergy, or nutritional deficiencies.
Conventional medications used for fibromyalgia include painkillers (like Vicodin, Percocet, other opioids), muscle relaxers (like Soma or Flexeril), antidepressants, sleeping pills, and antianxiety medications. Many patients have difficulty tolerating the adverse side effects that result from these medications. Side effects include nausea, constipation, excessive drowsiness, lethargy, decreased libido and headache.
Although more studies are needed, a recent study (published in The Journal of Pain Feb 2008) assessed the benefit of nabilone, a man-made form of cannabis, on pain reduction and quality of life improvement in patients with fibromyalgia. Nabilone was found to significantly reduce pain with minimal side effects. Many patients with fibromyalgia have found the same is true for medical marijuana. They find that their pain is reduced or eliminated, their insomnia is cured, and their depression and anxiety are alleviated. Many patients choose to use medical marijuana because they cannot tolerate the side effects of the medication prescribed by their doctor and simply must get relief from the daily pain of their disease.