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Monday, 12 November 2018

The Effect of Cannabis on Dystonia and Spasticity


The cannabis plant derivative CBD has been known for years to treat various conditions thanks to its pain-relieving and neuroprotective effects. It has shown promise for relieving chronic pains including arthritic pains, pain due to multiple sclerosis, and nerve pain in general. It has also been used to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

But did you know that cannabis can also help to treat dystonia and spasticity? This article sheds a light on that.

Understanding Dystonia

Dystonia is a movement disorder that results in the muscles of the affected person having involuntary contractions. The contractions bring about repetitive movements and twisting, which may be painful at times.

Researchers believe that defective brain signals make muscles pull on the body of the patient incorrectly, spasm, and compel the body to twist, move repetitively, and form into abnormal postures. Dystonic tremors sometimes come along with these symptoms.

Dystonia is classified into three types:
  1. Idiopathic dystonia – Occurs with no obvious or known cause
  2. Genetic dystonia – Acquired from the parents, thus present at birth
  3. Acquired (secondary) dystonia – A result of environmental conditions or other brain damage
Some possible causes of dystonia include genetic inheritance, lead, and carbon monoxide poisoning, stroke, physical trauma, infections, and even pharmaceutical drugs, especially neuroleptics that are used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Most of the time, dystonia manifests as abnormal posturing. The opposing muscles contract simultaneously as if competing for control over a part of the body. Some of the symptoms of dystonia include:
  1. Difficulty in speech
  2. Tremors
  3. Diaphragm vibrations while breathing
  4. Sleeplessness
  5. Increased stress and anxiety
  6. Pain like that of restless leg
  7. The constant muscle and brain activity cause abnormal sleeping pattern, lack of concentration, blurred vision, mood swings, and mental stress.

Spasticity explained

Patients with spasticity experience muscle stiffness and problems with movement. They also suffer spasms whereby a muscle goes limp or jerks uncontrollably, which may sometimes lead to severe pain and sleep problems. This condition is common among patients suffering from spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments.

Why cannabis is an effective treatment for dystonia and spasticity

The different types of dystonia vary by the part of the body they affect. With so much of the disease involving muscle spasms and involuntary contractions, medical cannabis can come in handy to treat the muscle spasms. Several studies have been conducted to support findings that CBD as a useful treatment for dystonia (movement disorders) and spasticity.

Cannabis contains two cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the body’s endocannabinoid system. The two cannabinoids help to regulate the inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters that are crucial for diminishing muscle tremors and spasticity.

With the understanding of the uses of medicinal cannabis for dystonia and spasticity treatment, patients with either of the two disorders can get relief by using it. They should ensure that they get high-quality cannabis products, and they can be sure to get them from reliable sellers.

Cases of cannabis efficacy in treating dystonia and spasticity

According to personal accounts, cannabis is known to relieve muscle spasms, even before it was available widely for medicinal purposes. From a 1982 study of people with spinal cord injuries, 21 out of 43 people indicated that cannabis eased their spasticity.

Additionally, a 1997 survey of multiple sclerosis patients who used cannabis frequently found that almost the entire population of 112 individuals also said that cannabis helped to minimize pain and spasticity.

A 2002 case study published in The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management reported alleviation of dystonia symptoms in a 42-year-old with chronic pain after inhaling cannabis smoke. The improvement was manifested by a drop in her subjective pain score from nine to zero. She was also in need of no other analgesic drugs for the 48 hours that followed. As per the researchers, no other treatment had offered significant relief for her condition.

Symptoms of dystonia treated by cannabis

Besides the contorting muscles and repetitive spasms that characterize dystonia, neuropathic pain also often accompanies them. The pain may target any part of the body including the hands. Parts like the shoulders, neck, and facial areas can also experience dystonias that are disabling and painful, resulting in the patient being unable to speak, walk, or move if left untreated.

Cannabis as a cure for dystonia comes in handy in such conditions. Even if it does not cure the condition or reverse any damage, it is said that in the majority of the cases, it can eliminate the pain and make the muscles unclench and relax. This happens to an extent the patient is not extremely disabled anymore and can function and move normally.

Although CBD helps alleviate some muscle spasms due to dystonia, it seems not to help as much as when it is mixed with high levels of THC. Patients do not seem to be relieved from residual pain when treated with CBD without THC.

Due to the antiemetic, analgesic, and appetite-stimulating characteristics of marijuana, it is effective as a treatment for dystonia since it helps to improve symptoms like severe pain, appetite loss, and nausea. Marijuana also has antispasmodic properties, and this helps to counteract the involuntary movement characteristics of dystonia.

Bottom line

Considering both the numerous medical research is done and the accumulating anecdotal evidence, it is evident that cannabis can be an effective alternative treatment to alleviate symptoms for patients with dystonia and spasticity.

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