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Fibromyalgia patient advocates for change


Photo Courtesy of cannabisgenomics.org


In 2004, then 24-year-old Kristen Jensen was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a musculoskeletal disorder that results in widespread chronic pain throughout the body, after she was in a car accident which injured her neck, back and shoulder. Kristen said she believes the traumatic event is what triggered the beginning of her diagnosis.


“I was asleep in the back seat when it happened,” she said. “I went three days without medical attention but when I did go [to the doctor] they told me that I did something to the tendon that connects your neck to your shoulder.”


While she had already experimented with marijuana for PTSD and knew that it helped for pain, the South Dakota native was aware that finding the medicine she needed would be hard to come by. Additionally, Kristen said she had a difficult time finding a doctor that would treat her fibromyalgia with any type of medicine.


“No one really specializes in this in my area so I don’t have a choice,” she said. “Marijuana relaxes my muscles enough to move more fluidly, I’m able to crack my neck and stretch better, I feel calm and it just puts me in a better mood in general.”


Before her diagnosis Kristen took care of children for a living but as her illness progressed she no longer had the energy to do what she loved.


“I was working at a day care but my shoulder injury prevented me from picking up the children so I had to leave,” she said.


Additionally, Kristen said her condition became more severe while she was pregnant with her daughter in 2016. She said her symptoms intensified to the point where she took a risk and used marijuana during her pregnancy.


“I think the fibromyalgia exaggerated the symptoms of the pregnancy. My lower back pain and temperature sensitivity intensified. I needed something to help with the symptoms and it helped with the nausea and extra pain,” she said.


Kristen added that she thinks the marijuana use did not affect her daughter’s development nor did it cause any health issues. “She’s very smart and happy.” Kristen continues to struggle with fibromyalgia in her back and receives disability. She said the most difficult part of living with this illness is managing the constant pain and not having the energy she once had.


“It kind of feels like the pain gets worse in my back and then radiates from that point to the rest of my body,” she said. I miss being active and being able to run around with my friends and play with my kid more.”


Now that she has experienced relief from cannabis use for herself, she believes it should be legalized for medical reasons but should be explored more before it is legalized recreationally.


“I’m not sure about recreational, I think it needs to be studied most of all,” she said. It’s helping so many people medically that it should at least be legalized for that and I’ve heard great things from states that have legalized it."


In late 2020, Kristen also joined a group of advocates to raise awareness about the controversy around 'Amendment A' which was voted on by South Dakotans and passed in that November. The amendment allows residents to grow, manufacture and sell cannabis as a licensed business. However, the controversy began when Circuit Judge Christina Klinger overturned it. Kristen said she joined the group because she doesn't believe it's fair for government officials to deny the American people something that they voted for.



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