Muscle Spasm Treatment: Is Cannabis Effective?
How many muscles do you think you have? 50? 100? 200? Incredibly, we have over 650 named muscles. When counting muscles within muscles, some estimates go as 840. That’s a lot of muscles! With so many muscles it’s not hard to imagine that our body works hard maintaining them at an optimal level. For people with particular medical conditions, however, severe or persistent muscle spasms are a part of their everyday life. Many turn to cannabis. However, can cannabis be an effective muscle spasm treatment for these individuals?
What Are Severe and Persistent Muscle Spasms?
A muscle spasm is the involuntary contraction of one or more muscles. They occur spontaneously. For most people, it’s not serious. Acute muscle spasms usually occur when muscles are stressed from overuse, dehydrated, deficient in magnesium or potassium, or when an individual has poor circulation.
When an individual regularly experiences severe muscles spasms or persistent muscle spasms that occur daily (or near-daily), it is often a symptom of a more serious condition.
Severe muscle spasms are usually the result of damage or extreme stress on nerves that disrupt nerve root signals from the spinal cord. That could be any number of things, including a spinal cord injury, hernia, or pinched nerve in your neck or back.
Persistent muscle spasms (daily or near-daily) are usually caused by an underlying medical condition that is systemic or neurological. They can also be related to vascular, hormonal, or toxic-metabolic problems.
What Medical Conditions Cause Persistent Muscle Spasms?
Persistent muscle spasms are often the result of a movement or neurological disorder such as:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Possibly the most common condition associated with persistent muscle spasms.
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Dystonias: Prolonged, repetitive contractions that cause twisting/jerking movements.
- Torticollis Syndrome: Also known as“wry neck.”
- Blepharism: Involuntary blinking.
- Myoclonus: Sudden, irregular, involuntary contractions
Can Cannabis Treat Muscle Spasms?
Muscle spasms, especially those caused by MS, are usually treated with pain relievers (analgesics), anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-anxiety medication, muscle relaxers, or, in some cases, Botulinum toxin. However, many patients find these drugs produce intolerable side-effects or aren’t effective. This has lead to many patients turning to cannabis as a muscle spasm treatment.
Recent scientific research has proven cannabis and cannabis-derived drugs can help patients with persistent muscle spasms. After an extensive review of all available medical research, in 2018 National Academy of Sciences produced a report — The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids — that states:
“Conclusive or substantial scientific evidence has shown that marijuana products are effective at treating chronic pain, calming muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, and easing nausea from chemotherapy.”
National Academy of Sciences
The review identified substantial evidence that cannabis-derived oral cannabinoids are effective in treating spasms from multiple sclerosis. Further, both oral cannabinoids and inhaled cannabis can treat chronic pain in adults.
After reviewing substantial medical evidence, researchers report:
“Oral cannabis-based drugs contain THC, the intoxicating compound in pot, or cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating chemical in marijuana that appears to have some therapeutic benefit.”
National Academy of Sciences
However, they also cautioned that because THC and CBD levels can vary considerably between cannabis strains, unless researchers create standards it will be challenging to comprehensively assess the impact of different strains with variable THC and CBD levels.
But, Wait, There’s More!
For many years, Israeli researchers have been isolating integral chemical components in cannabis to study the effects of cannabis on numerous medical conditions.
A 2013 Israeli study published by the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology reported various naturally occurring chemicals found in cannabis might decrease spinal cord and brain inflammation. The study’s findings for people suffering from severe or persistent muscle spasms is encouraging.
In addition, anecdotal evidence offered by patients who have chosen to use medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms such as severe pain, muscle tremors and spasms generally tend to be positive. Patients who are using medical marijuana seem, as a majority, to believe they are receiving medical benefits as a result and they are achieving results that improve their quality of life.
Popular Strains for Muscle Spasm Treatment
According to crowd-sourced reviews on Leafly, users with muscle spasms report positive results from the following strains:
Muscle Spasm Treatment: Hybrids
- ACDC (high-CBD)
- Canna-Tsu (high-CBD)
- Chemdawg 4
- White Widow
Muscle Spasm Treatment: Sativa-Dominant
- Great White Shark
- Charlotte’s Web (high-CBD)
- Sweet Diesel
- Jamaican Dream
As patients find conventional medications ineffective, an increasing number turn to cannabis as their preferred muscle spasm treatment. Cannabis is an anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-reliever) with chemicals that interact with the endocannabinoid system to influence how the body interprets pain. Research thus far has been encouraging. However, does that mean cannabis is an appropriate muscle spasm treatment for you? That’s a highly personal decision that you should make with your preferred medical professional (hopefully one who is knowledgeable about cannabis).
If you decide to use cannabis as a muscle spasm treatment, we’re happy to help you find the right strain and ingestion method that works for you. You can visit our online dispensary menu to search for the type of cannabis product that you like, or schedule an appointment for assistance.
Muscle spasms can have a detrimental effect on one's life. Is cannabis a viable muscle spasm treatment that can bring relief?
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Our muscles ought to be limber and pliable, but in many people, that’s unfortunately not the case. Muscle spasms and lack of spasticity are a problem for millions of people all over the world, making it painful and difficult to move; sometimes to the point of being completely debilitating. Luckily, we’ve got cannabis for muscle spasms and limited spasticity, with exciting progress on treating this malady.
Cannabis for Muscle Spasms and MS
Spasticity problems can happen for an array of reasons, but perhaps the biggest and most severe cause for muscle spasms and lack of spasticity is a disease called multiple sclerosis (or MS). MS is a progressive disease of the nervous system with no known cure that plagues 2.5 million people. It destroys a protective coating around the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord called the myelin sheath. This results in an array of symptoms, including loss of voluntary muscle control and spasticity.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, spasticity “refers to the stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms that are indicative of the disease.” This is a problem in 9 out of 10 MS patients, sooner or later. Some know it as mild muscle stiffness, but others endure constant ache, cramps, involuntary muscle spasms, or even paralyzation in severe cases. Sleep is hugely affected, which affects other symptoms as well.
MS and Cannabis: The Numbers Are In
In a 2012 study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found a one-third decrease in spasticity in MS patients that consumed cannabis compared to participants given a placebo. The ability to move more is a huge deal, but it also reduced the patient’s perception of pain by 50% – far more than any other medication.
Another study showed that 77% of subjects found cannabis helpful in managing symptoms, especially spasticity and pain. As cannabis legalization increases and stigma decreases, many more MS patients have turned to the plant for relief. 76% of respondents in one study said they’d consider using cannabis to manage their MS and 28% already are.
Other Conditions That Cause These Problems
MS is the most well-known of culprits behind spasticity problems, but other conditions can also cause spasticity issues. Some other causes are brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke, meningitis, fibromyalgia, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Other kinds of brain damage can also be the culprit, like diseases in addition to MS that compromise the myelin sheath, such as B12 deficiency and encephalitis.
How Cannabis Helps Muscle Spasticity
The exact reasons that cannabis is helpful in these matters are not known, but it is generally understood that anti-inflammatory properties that are the cause for the success of cannabis for muscle spasms. A study conducted at the University of South Carolina found that the immune system’s inflammatory proteins are deactivated by cannabis. As with many of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, research is just getting rolling; but it sure is off to an exciting start.
If you are interested in learning more about cannabis for muscle spasms, schedule a consultation with our skilled team.
Want to learn more about cannabis for muscle spasms and MS? Here's what you need to know about current findings and some exciting news on the way.