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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 cannabis trials have led to drastically reduced pain 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 related to the endocannabinoid system. One such example is the alleviating of muscle spasticity, a painful symptom of many conditions, such as: stroke, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and Huntington’s.

Muscle Spasticity in the hand

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.

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.

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, show a positive effect in treating 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.

THC Blocks Inflammation

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 addresses the root cause of the problem. Even better, it helps the spastic area in sufferers with nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis.

Group of patients in OT using bands to build leg strength

Spasticity treatments can include:

  • Oral medication (such as Baclofen)
  • local injections
  • surgery to correct severe problematic nerve roots
  • and physical therapy

For many spasticity sufferers, the journey to finding long lasting relief is a disappointing one. Chronic use of some of these pharmaceuticals leads to unwanted side effects. These can include vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, depression, and muscle weakness. Cannabis does not have these side effects and is worth considering for the treatment of muscle spasticity.

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Lydia Kariuki

RN, Expert medical writer who is passionate about cannabis!

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