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Medical Marijuana and Spasticity

What Is Spasticity?

Medical marijuana research is indicating that use of medical marijuana can decrease spasticity. Spasticity is stiffness in a muscle or an increase in muscle tone that is considered abnormal. It typically takes place when nerve damage inhibits the ability to control muscles. It most often associated with multiple sclerosis. However, it can also take place wtih cerebral palsy, ALS, stroke, when a spinal cord is damaged and a number of other injuries and disorders. Medical marijuana can decrease the instances of spasticity and alleviate the symptoms associated with it in certain sufferers. 

Muscle spasticity presents as exaggerated reflexes, spasms, advanced muscle tone and fixed joints. Individuals who suffer from muscle spasticity may feel a little sore or can have extreme uncontrollable movements. Severe spasticity can make it difficult to perform day-to-day activities, which is why treatments like medical marijuana are important. A person with spasticity can also injure his or herself in various ways, such as falling down. Even without injury, this condition can be very painful.

Research into treatment of spasticity with medical marijuana indicates that it can not only treat pain from muscle spasticity but it can also decrease the symptoms/incidences of spasticity. Current treatments include medications and physical therapy. However, they offer limited relief. Furthermore, in many cases, there is no cure. Medical marijuana cannot provide that much-needed cure. It can offer relief to individuals who will have to live with these symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Medical Marijuana and Spasticity

Medical Marijuana and Spasticity Research 

Clinical trials of medical marijuana on spasticity in multiple sclerosis sufferers have shown mixed results. In one trial, subjective perception of muscle spasticity decreased in the sufferers but observers saw no significant decrease and found that it further impaired coordination. Another study showed a marked decline in spasticity. However, this was not a blind study. Yet another involving a single patient showed nabilone -- synthetic THC -- decreased spasticity.

 These limited findings are consistent with what other medical marijuana research has found about the drug's effects on the body. There is significant evidence that medical marijuana can affect the central nervous system, which is where much spasticity originates. The endocannabinoid system is found virtually everywhere in the human body. Therefore, it is not a leap to suggest that medical marijuana can not only affect the root of the problem but also the spastic area in sufferers with nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis gets the most attention when it comes to spasticity. However, spinal cord injury is another leading cause of muscle spasticity. It is also another area of medical marijuana research. Like MS, spinal cord injury can cause pain that can be treated with medical marijuana. The spasticity found in spinal cord injury is also treatable with cannabis sativa and its derivatives. Also like MS, spinal cord injury sufferers will most often need long-term medical care. Therefore, safer alternatives to sedatives and traditional pain relievers are needed for these conditions. Medical marijuana is showing promise in that area as well.

Medical Marijuana Spasticity Research

A double-blind study of a paraplegic spinal cord injury sufferer showed that muscle spasticity decreased when the patient was given THC. Furthermore, it worked better than the codeine that the patient was receiving. This indicates that medical marijuana is not only a viable treatment but may also be more successful in some patients than existing treatments. Nonetheless, more research is certainly needed, as one patient cannot show how prevalent relief is among sufferers who are given medical marijuana.

As with other conditions treated with medical marijuana, the anecdotal evidence that it works is staggering. One study showed that nearly all of 112 survey respondents with multiple sclerosis had fewer incidences of muscle spasticity when taking marijuana. Another study of subjective sensations showed that nearly half experienced less spasticity when on medical marijuana. This is not overwhelming proof. However, it certainly suggests that medical marijuana can increase quality of life in many spasticity suffers. It also indicates that in-depth and solid research into the treatment of spasticity with medical marijuana is needed. Safe, effective and tested medications are always needed for chronic conditions such as spasticity. Until there is a way to cure the damage that leads to spasticity in most patients, it is the duty of the medical community to explore all avenues of relief for these sufferers.

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