Disclaimer: This post is not medical advice. It is my opinion based on my experience .Image from Pixabay
If you have read any of my previous posts you would know I am a fan of cannabis. I personally use it medically and recreationally. I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about how it relieves my Post Exertional Malaise symptoms. Before I get into that I want to be clear that PEM is not my only medical condition and there are a lot of overlapping symptoms, co morbidities and other chronic (pun intended) health issues .
If you are wondering WTF is PEM, I will explain it a quickly as I can. First and foremost PEM is not the same as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) though that can be co-morbid. PEM is a physiological condition where exertion be it physical, mental, emotional or any combination, causes the suffer to become sick. In my case bed bound sick from doing daily activities such as going to a grocery store or sometimes as little as taking a shower. God forbid I attempt aerobic exercise I could be bed ridden for weeks- no exaggeration. If you know someone with a chronic illness and they talk about a "crash" or flare up, they may be referring to PEM. PEM can make symptoms of other illnesses so much worse.
PEM suffers are not lazy, though society loves to use that label for a multitude of invisible and visible illnesses.
To me PEM feels like "coming down with the flu after I just ran a marathon". That is how I would describe this before I knew what is was. I used to be very physically active until I got sick in my teens so I know the difference between this and post workout soreness. For me it hurts. A lot. Like my muscles are being ripped from my bones even while at rest. I also suffer from muscle pain and problems specifically my muscles don't relax and are often very stiff (that stiffness is not relieved from stretching or physical activity -it is worsened by them).
The exact cause of PEM is unknown however multiple studies confirm it's existence including physiological findings that can't be "faked". PEM tends to co exist with neuro-immune, auto-immune and fatigue related illnesses.
PEM symptoms can include:
Severe muscle/ joint pain
Cognitive issues/brain fog
worsening of symptoms in other illnesses
and so on
With my neuro-immune condition I feel all of these things most of the time but PEM makes it so much worse. PEM can also be caused by things you may not consider to be "exertion" like studying for a test, watching a movie with a friend or climbing a flight of stairs. Yes these activities most people take for granted can leave PEM suffers bedridden. Imagine for a moment, if every time you did these activities you were so sick you had to be in bed for days if not weeks to recover. Suffers of PEM do not live an easy life and are too often not taken seriously by both the medical community as well as friends and family.
PEM has different triggers for different people. Finding your triggers is an important part of pacing and reducing PEM. Here's a handy toolkit from the Open Medicine Foundation regarding PEM Sometimes though it can "come out of nowhere" and you can't always identify the trigger(s). My PEM hits me fast within hours of doing an activity (for most it is within 24-48 hours but can onset longer in some patients). Sometimes I feel it coming on while engaged in an activity, but it is usually within 4 hours of a triggering activity that my symptoms start to present.
That was a bit of a long intro, let's talk about weed now :)
I use cannabis for the physical and cognitive symptoms of PEM. For me I find a good sativa hybrid can help with brain fog. I am not as sensitive to sativa vs indica as most people seem to be and any cannabis helps me. Currently I have been trying a lot of "cake" strains and I really like how my body feels when using these strains.
As for the physical fatigue that accompanies PEM there is no treatment that I have found that works for me (aside from stimulants and that can have it's own issues). Though to be fair my fatigue has a lot to do with lack energy on the cellular level and cannabis can't really help with that. Cannabis absolutely helps with the cognitive fatigue/ brain fog.
Yes I smoke weed to think more clearly. Cannabis also helps tremendously with the pain and general malaise.
Cannabis saved my life (along with beta blockers which help my POTS). Without it I would be bed bound 24/7. With it I can function a lot better and most people who know me casually usually don't know how sick I really am. That is one of the hardest things about having invisible illnesses "you don't look sick".
I don't talk about my chronic illnesses much but I wanted to give this information in hopes to shed light on a few topics and maybe helps others who may be suffering. I will end this post with this statement:
If you are suffering with any illness, diagnosed or not I just want to say you are valid. I believe you. If you feel you may be suffering from this, please seek help if at all possible.
I believe you. You are not alone.