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Medical Marijuana for Myelomalacia

Updated on January 30, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist

marijuana for myelomalacia

Myelomalacia is a debilitating degenerative neurological condition that medical cannabis may help treat. The herb has been used medicinally for thousands of years and prescribed regularly for several decades by U.S. doctors for nerve pain. It can help with symptoms including muscle weakness, pain and motor function impairment caused by myelomalacia. Learn more about this condition and how medical marijuana treatment can help you find relief for myelomalacia.

What Is Myelomalacia?

Myelomalacia is a medical condition where the spinal cord “softens.” This softening can result in spinal cord volume loss, causing problems throughout your entire body.

Depending on the severity and location, a spinal injury can affect the functionality of your spinal cord severely, ultimately leading to myelomalacia. Myelomalacia is most common in the first to fifth lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5) and first and fifth cervical vertebrae (C1-C5) injuries, from a statistical standpoint.

Causes of Myelomalacia

Spinal cord volume loss can occur for various physical reasons such as athletic trauma, falls or car accidents, but each leads to a similar pathology in your body — a decrease of blood supply to your spinal cord.

If the site of injury leads to an inadequate amount of blood supply to your spinal cord, it loses volume and softens. Inadequate spinal cord blood supply isn’t just due to trauma. It can also occur from aging or sports-related injuries.

causes of myelomalacia

Symptoms of Myelomalacia

When your spinal cord isn’t receiving enough blood and starts to soften, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain or loss of pain perception
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Inhibited or delayed reflexes
  • Motor function impairment or loss in the extremities
  • Hypertension
  • Difficulty breathing

Because these symptoms are serious, spine specialists prefer to correct the problem as fast as possible once they detect myelomalacia.

Complications of Myelomalacia

Many individuals who receive a diagnosis of myelomalacia also have flaccid paraplegia, which is the partial or total loss of lower body part motor functions.

complications of myelomalacia

Furthermore, there aren’t any tell-tale signs with myelomalacia. Sometimes individuals show up to their doctors with hypertension, but later find out they have myelomalacia. After the onset of myelomalacia, the condition progresses through a predictable course. Once flaccid paraplegia occurs, the individual develops areflexia, or loss of tendon reflexes, and then experiences deep pain perception loss in the coccyx area, which is the triangular bone arrangement making up the spine’s bottom portion below the sacrum.

As myelomalacia progresses, muscular atrophy occurs closely followed by paralysis of the diaphragm or between the ribs. Clinical observations have shown the condition eventually reaches the brain and creates additional neurological deficits.

When the damage makes its way to the motor nuclei and phrenic nerves, which reside between the third and fifth cervical vertebrae area, death occurs. Myelomalacia is often referred to as an ascending condition because it can also make its way to other upper-body areas. Respiratory paralysis occurs in some patients, leading to their death.

Current Available Treatments for Myelomalacia

Myelomalacia is a severe condition requiring treatment quickly to prevent permanent nerve-related damage.

Your doctor will likely need to perform an MRI scan to accurately and completely diagnose the condition. Once they have a diagnosis, they’ll sit down with you and discuss your treatment options. If your myelomalacia has put any of your spinal nerves in danger, they may need to perform a minimally invasive surgical procedure. If it hasn’t, they may explore other non-surgical options such as injections.

1. Medications

Your doctor may prescribe one or several medications for myelomalacia. Here are some common medicines:

  • Injections: Your doctor might prescribe steroids to reduce spinal cord swelling, spasticity, and pain. You could develop pain, redness or infection at the injection site.
  • Pregabalin: Pregabalin is an anticonvulsant and analgesic drug doctors may prescribe for managing pain associated with myelomalacia. Some side effects could include weight gain, fatigue, blurry vision, dizziness, and brain fog.
  • Mitragyna speciosa: Mitragyna speciosa, also known as kratom, is a medicinal plant that comes from the coffee tree. Some side effects may include constipation, euphoria, dizziness and excessive thirst.
  • Morphine: Morphine is a type of opiate drug prescribed for treating moderate to severe pain. It’s available in extended release and immediate formulas for different delivery methods including tablets, liquid, continuous pump infusion and injectable. Constipation is the most common side effect of morphine. Other side effects may include itching, drowsiness, nausea and sleepiness. Over time, you may require higher doses of morphine to achieve the same effects. Like other opioids, morphine is highly addictive and can lead to death if taken in high amounts or with other substances including alcohol.

2. Minimally Invasive Surgery

When your doctor suggests minimally invasive surgery for myelomalacia, you should learn as much about the procedure as possible, including its benefits, risks and the recovery process. Two goals of this procedure are to clear the compression or blockage inhibiting regular blood flow and stabilizing the area so the problem doesn’t reoccur.

The doctor will determine your exact surgery details including what types of implants they’ll use or which discs they’ll operate on based on your particular case. In the days leading up to your surgery, they’ll walk you through what to expect with your specific procedure.

However, here’s a basic overview of the surgery the doctor would perform if you have a shifted spinal disc that resulted in the softening of your spinal cord because of a lack of blood flow:

  • They’ll put you under general anesthesia to put you asleep for the surgery. Typically, the surgeon can use a minimally invasive technique, cutting down on the risks of surgical complications and recovery time.
  • During this type of procedure, the surgeon would make a tiny incision on your back to access the damaged area.
  • They’ll use a camera device like an endoscope and insert it to visualize the surgical site on the operating room screen.
  • They’ll then carefully remove the bone or disc that’s reducing the spinal cord’s blood flow.
  • Once the surgeon has removed that part, they’ll insert a bone graft or implant to stabilize the area, preventing the disc from compressing the site again.

Medical Marijuana as an Alternative Treatment for Myelomalacia

For thousands of years, humans have used the marijuana plant to:

  • Control nausea: Cannabis has antiemetic properties that help ease an upset stomach.
  • Reduce pain: Medical marijuana helps relieve persistent, chronic pain.
  • Control anxiety: Low doses of CBD work well for relieving anxiety.
  • Stimulate the appetite: Promotes the “munchies,” causing people to crave food.
  • Produce euphoric feelings: General entire body relaxation, also helping to reduce pain.

When scientists identified the first cannabinoid in 1964, they made discoveries about how and why marijuana works as well as its full therapeutic potential.

marijuana alternative treatment

Researchers later touted cannabis’s therapeutic benefits as derived from the cannabinoid’s interactions with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which they identified in 1988. The ECS is made up of receptors and signaling pathways involved in the regulation of numerous physiological processes such as mood, memory, movement, pain, and appetite.

Cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) react with the endocannabinoid receptors in much the same way the body’s natural endocannabinoids do. The ECS is closely connected with the parts of the brain and body that regulate pain.

Studies have shown adding cannabinoids to opiates improves their ability to reduce pain, helps reduce the chances of developing a tolerance to opiates and prevents opiate withdrawal.

How Medical Marijuana Treats Myelomalacia

Stiffness, severe pain, uncontrollable bowel and bladder, insomnia, anxiety, and depression are only some of the symptoms spinal cord injury patients endure on a daily basis. Cannabinoids found in medical marijuana can provide spinal cord injury patients with the outstanding diversity of symptom relief. Some symptoms of myelomalacia that marijuana treatment may help with include:

1. Pain

Researchers now understand a great deal about how cannabis works in the human body. Cannabinoids activate certain body receptors, producing pharmacological effects, mainly in your central nervous system and immune system. When the cannabinoids activate the cannabis receptors in the pain-perception pathways of your body, you’ll experience a decrease in physical suffering.

Most patients with spinal cord injury suffer from chronic pain. This pain can last for a few months or several years after the initial spinal cord injury. It can impact your quality of life negatively. Individuals in severe pain can’t carry out their daily tasks in many cases.

Marijuana for myelomalacia has chronic pain fighting properties. One study showed medical weed combined with a massage provided spinal cord injury patients with highly effective pain relief.

Some good spinal pain-fighting strains include:

  • Afgoo (Indica)
  • Super Sour Diesel (Sativa)
  • Harlequin (Sativa)
  • Cannatonic (Hybrid)

2. Muscle Spasticity

Medical pot works by decreasing inflammation, which can cause muscle spasticity or spasms. The University of South Carolina conducted a study showing that marijuana decreases the immune system’s response to pain such as from a muscle injury, psychoactive THC deactivates the system’s inflammatory proteins.

Strains for muscle spasticity to try are:

  • Pink Kush (Hybrid)
  • Purple Kush (Indica)
  • Kali Mist (Sativa)

3. Swelling or Inflammation

Medical marijuana treatment is effective at decreasing chronic inflammation and inflammatory-related pain because of its two main cannabinoids — THC and CBD.

Both THC and CBD work to prevent or treat inflammation, and they are effective at decreasing signaling proteins that cause inflammation. Since scientists find CBD is highly effective in fighting inflammation, you may find CBD-rich cannabis strains helpful to tackle extreme inflammation.

Some strains to try include:

  • Avi-Dekel (Hybrid)
  • God Bud (Indica)
  • Purple Urkle (Indica)

4. Insomnia

Pain can keep anyone awake and cause sleep problems like insomnia. Using medical weed to tackle insomnia is an effective alternative for many individuals without the possible harmful side effects of sleeping pills. Many studies show how effective marijuana is at improving sleep. Anecdotal evidence also shows excellent results from cannabis for improving sleep.

Strains for sleep include:

  • Tahoe OG Kush (Hybrid)
  • Granddaddy Purple (Indica)
  • Skywalker (Indica)

5. Depression and Anxiety

For hundreds of years, individuals have been using marijuana to treat their depression. Patients report its ability to heighten their mood and provide energy.

depression and anxiety

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for treating anxiety. They manage the GABA, which is a neurotransmitter balancing your levels of anxiety and blocking nerve impulses. Unfortunately, individuals who take “benzos” often build up a tolerance quickly. Benzos also cause thousands of overdose-related deaths each year.

Medical cannabis also affects your GABA levels without the harsh side effects of traditional medications. Earlier studies found marijuana components, particularly CBD, manage how much GABA you have in your brain.

Strains for depression and anxiety are:

  • Pineapple Express (Hybrid)
  • Jack Herer (Sativa)
  • Girl Scout Cookies (Hybrid)

Side Effects of Medical Marijuana

Cannabis is a holistic and natural alternative to traditional medications for myelomalacia. However, just like with any other treatment, it can come with some potential side effects.

Here are a few of medical marijuana’s side effects:

  • Respiratory problems: If you inhale the herb, there is a chance of developing respiratory issues after long time use. To offset this risk, try another method of consumption such as edibles or topicals.
  • Red eyes: Although red eyes aren’t harmful, they can cause embarrassment or self-consciousness. Try some over-the-counter eye drops to offset red eyes.
  • Thirst or hunger: Feelings of the “munchies” or “cotton mouth” are common side effects of using marijuana. Both, while not too pleasant, are easily fixed by keeping food and drinks nearby before and after your cannabis use.

As with any other drug, cannabis can affect each person differently. Consult with a qualified cannabis doctor and a cannabis dispensary for the best results as you experiment with different ingestion methods and strains.

myelomalacia treatment

The Best Ways to Use Medical Marijuana for Myelomalacia

While smoking a joint or bong is the stereotypical image of cannabis use, there are numerous other methods, including:

  • Vaping: If you still wish to inhale medical pot but don’t want to put yourself at risk for respiratory damage, you can try vaping. While vaping still has its risks for respiratory problems, they’re not as high as they are with smoking.
  • Edibles: From cakes, cookies, and brownies to gummies and candy, edible cannabis products provide you with a discreet and delicious way of consuming your marijuana for myelomalacia. The effects of edibles, however, don’t kick in right away and are more intense and lasting than with other methods.
  • Topicals: Another popular option for medicinal marijuana users is topical products. These include creams, salves, sprays, lotions, and ointments. They provide localized inflammation and pain relief without causing the “high.”

Even if you’ve used cannabis before, you should still experiment with some methods to see which ones you prefer.

Start Your Medical Marijuana Treatment for Myelomalacia Treatment

Medical pot is a natural, affordable alternative medication that’s helped many patients for pain and other symptoms. If you’re struggling with myelomalacia and would like to see if medical cannabis is the right treatment, Marijuana Doctors can help.

We can connect you with hundreds of qualified cannabis doctors all over the country so you can rest easy knowing you’re compliant with your state laws. We also have an extensive list of marijuana dispensaries you can choose from to obtain your cannabis products. Schedule your appointment today to speak with a marijuana doctor and allow us to help improve your health and quality of life.

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Resources:

  1. http://sci.washington.edu/summit2014/medical_marijuana.asp
  2. https://www.safeaccessnow.org/medical_cannabis_research_what_does_the_evidence_say
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1864800/
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/08/29/why-marijuana-compounds-could-eventually-replace-anti-anxiety-meds/#26e758d191b3
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