Muscle Spasticity Is Difficult to Treat...Unless You're Cannabis - RxLeaf

Muscle Spasticity Is Difficult to Treat…Unless You’re Cannabis

Lydia K. RN
Boy with cerebral palsy in physiotherapy

Many patients with chronic muscle spasticity report that cannabis trials have led to drastically reduced painful episodes. 

Cannabis has been in existence as a medicine since at least the 15th Century. Many legendary figures, such as Queen Victoria and Thomas Jefferson, ascribed to the healing benefits of cannabis. Modern research has corroborated these findings that, indeed, cannabis is effective against numerous medical pathologies that relate to the endocannabinoid system. One such example is the alleviating of muscle spasticity, a painful symptom of many conditions, such as: stroke recovery, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and Huntington’s.

Muscle Spasticity in the hand

Image Credit: Kat Krittimook

Muscle Spasms Affect 12 Million People Every Day

As the name suggests, muscle spasticity has to do with painful muscle spasms as a result of the malfunctioning of the nervous system. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates that, worldwide, 12 million people suffer from spasticity. It presents with symptoms that include: stiff and painful muscles, hyperactive reflexes, increased muscle tone, decreased mobility due to bone deformities and sometimes impaired speech. It is distressing that many patients have to endure these chronic, painful symptoms without ever finding significant relief.

Doctor working on foot in spasm

Image Credit: Africa Rising

Cannabis Can Stop Muscle Spasms

The human body (as well as those of mammals) has an endogenous signaling system, called the endocannabinoid system, which regulates many functions. Receptors for this system are found throughout the central nervous system (CNS) and the result of this is a direct influence on processes, such as the perception of pain, appetite, weight gain and reflexes, among others. Impairment of the communication with the endocannabiniod system, from injury or disease, such as the case of MS or spinal cord injury, can interfere with this communication.  One result of this communication breakdown is muscle spasticity.

Boy with cerebral palsy in physiotherapy

Image Credit: Vaneo Mo

One of the key components of cannabis are cannabinoids that mimic the body’s endogenous endocannabinoids. The major psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while the major non psychoactive ingredient is Cannabidiol (CBD). These cannabinoids, together with other compounds found in cannabis, such as terpenes and flavonoids, have been shown to have positive effect in the treatment of spasticity.

Numerous clinical trials have been done to test the effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment for muscle spasticity.  In one study, which included 112 respondents suffering from multiple sclerosis, nearly all reported decreased spasticity while taking medical cannabis. Yet another study showed more than 50 percent improvement of spasticity treatment with a cannabis regimen.

Nerve Cells Close Up

Image Credit: Kateryna Kon

One study revealed that THC acts to block the inflammatory response caused by damage to nerves and improves the communication between the nerves and receptors. This has two benefits: treating the symptoms of spasticity and slowing down the disease progression.

Endocannabinoid receptors are found virtually everywhere in the human body. Therefore, it is accurate to suggest that medical cannabis can address both the root cause of the problem as well as the spastic area in sufferers with nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis.

Group of patients in OT using bands to build leg strength

Image Credit: Xian Photos

Over the years spasticity treatments have included oral medications (such as Baclofen) local injections, surgery to correct severe problematic nerve roots, coupled with physical therapy. For many spasticity sufferers, the journey to finding long lasting relief is a disappointing one. Chronic use of some of these pharmaceuticals can lead to unwanted side effects, including vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, depression, and muscle weakness. Cannabis does not have these side effects and is worth considering for the treatment of muscle spasticity.

Lydia Kariuki

RN, Expert medical writer who is passionate about cannabis!

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