Muscular Spasm and Medical Marijuana – Is Cannabis Effective?
A muscular spasm refers to the sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle, which may result in excessive pain. Spasms can affect various types of muscle throughout the body. The three types of muscle found in the body include cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle, and smooth muscle.
Skeletal muscle spasms are the most common, and often due to dehydration, muscle exhaustion, and electrolyte irregularities. Although skeletal muscle spasms are usually Short-lived, they are painful and occur abruptly. A common treatment is muscle relaxants, which inhibit contractions leading to pain through sedation of the muscle. Other common treatments include exercise therapy and heat therapy.
Muscle spasms may also occur in smooth muscles, specifically the muscle tissue occurring in the internal organs such as the gut. These results in significant waves of pain called colic.
Examples include the pain associated with passing a kidney stone, menstrual cramps, and gallbladder pain.Patients should consult a physician if muscle spasms are recurring, significantly painful, or if they are irresolvable using common treatments.
Underlying Neurological Disorders of Chronic Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasms can vary based on severity ranging from a mild twitch to acute or chronic muscle pain. Chronic muscle spasms are usually associated with nerve damage distress, thereby impeding the nerve signals from the spinal cord. This may be a result of a spinal cord injury or a hernia. Persistent muscle spasms are usually associated with an underlying neurological disorder, such as the following:
Multiple sclerosis (MS): An unpredictable, progressive disease of the central nervous system. This disease has affected over 2.3 million people worldwide. The protective sheath covering nerve fibres is attacked by the immune system thus causing a disruption in the flow of information within your brain, and between your brain and body. Chronic muscle spasms are a common symptom of multiple
Myoclonus: A disorder characterized by involuntary, spasmodic contraction of groups of muscles. Signs and symptoms of myoclonus include muscle spasms that are shock-like, sudden, localized to one part of the body or all over the body, and may interfere with regular activities such as walking, speaking, or eating. Myoclonus may be a result of various underlying issues, such as epilepsy, head or spinal injury, prolonged oxygen deprivation, or kidney failure. Muscle spasms may occur due to nervous system conditions such as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Front temporal dementia.
Dystonia: A special form of muscle spasms in which a chemical abnormality impedes signal transmission within the brain. Treatments include Botox injections in order to relieve the spasm through paralysis of the affected muscle. Other treatments include prescription.
There is currently no universally effective medicine to treat chronic muscle spasms. Chronic muscle spasms are usually treated with analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxers, botulinum toxin, or anti-anxiety medication. However, these treatments are often associated with weakness, decreased blood pressure, drowsiness, and intolerable side effects. Many patients have described the side effects of prescription medication as equivalent to the pain endured through the disease itself.
Medical Marijuana to Treat Muscle Spasms
Recent conclusive studies state that medical marijuana is an effective drug to treat chronic muscle spasms. Patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries have confirmed a decrease in muscle spasms after consuming medical marijuana. Various cannabinoids may decrease brain and spinal cord inflammation, thereby significantly improving the quality of life of patients suffering from chronic muscle spasms.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vital, complex cell-signaling system which is responsible for maintaining bodily homeostasis. The ECS is composed of enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids, which are a family of neurotransmitters produced naturally by your body. Endocannabinoids interact with receptors found throughout your body, including the immune cells, brain, glands, and connective tissues.These molecules bind to cannabinoid receptors to regulate various functions such as inflammation regulation. Cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), function as endocannabinoids, specifically they bind to receptors in your ECS.
A muscle is likely to spasm when it is inflamed and irritated. Studies have shown that CBD and THC can both relieve inflammation, thus relieving muscle spasms by interacting with the ECS. CBD has also shown to reduce pain by interacting with specific receptors in the ECS to increase anandamide, an endocannabinoid involved in reducing the sensation of pain.
In 2012, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine discovered that marijuana reduces pain and muscle spasms. Patients who had consumed cannabis had reported a one-third decrease in muscle spasms, compared to those given a placebo. Not only was there a significant reduction in muscle spasms, but patients revealed a 50% decrease in pain perception.
Another study focused on patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease caused by a deficiency of dopaminergic neurons. Patients who had been treated with a daily dose of cannabidiol (CBD) oil had reported a significant reduction in muscle spasms.
Animal research has also supported these findings. Muscle spasms are believed to derive in regions of the brain that regulate movement, including various areas with abundant cannabinoid receptors. Findings from one experiment revealed that rodents became more active after consuming small doses of cannabinoids, yet they became less active after receiving larger doses of cannabinoids. Although the underlying molecular mechanism by which cannabinoids affect movement is unknown, the correlation between marijuana and movement is strongly supported.
Medical marijuana may be an effective tool to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from muscle spasms. More patients are turning towards medical marijuana to treat muscle spasms, as opposed to opioids and other prescription medications.
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