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Medical Marijuana and Skeletal Muscular Spasticity

What Is Skeletal Muscular Spasticity?

Muscle spasticity is a neurological condition/symptom that presents as increased muscle tone, muscle stiffness and inability to stretch the affected muscles. It primarily inhibits skeletal muscle. It is most commonly seen in disorders like multiple sclerosis, which causes lesions that affect the nervous system. Medical marijuana is fast becoming a breakthrough medicine in treating muscle spasticity. There are a limited number of treatments and none of them provides complete relief for all sufferers.

While the mechanisms behind skeletal muscular spasticity are not completely understood, we do know that it can occur with spinal injury, head injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other conditions that damage the brain and/or other parts of the nervous system. It can cause muscle spasms, pain, difficulty moving, loss of bodily functions and severe disability. Research is showing that it changes the muscle itself. Once this is well understood, we may understand treatment with medical marijuana and how it works to fight skeletal muscular spasticity better.

Muscle spasticity is a neurological condition/symptom that presents as increased muscle tone, muscle stiffness and inability to stretch the affected muscles. It primarily inhibits skeletal muscle. It is most commonly seen in disorders like multiple sclerosis, which causes lesions that affect the nervous system. Medical marijuana is fast becoming a breakthrough medicine in treating muscle spasticity. There are a limited number of treatments and none of them provides complete relief for all sufferers.

While the mechanisms behind skeletal muscular spasticity are not completely understood, we do know that it can occur with spinal injury, head injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other conditions that damage the brain and/or other parts of the nervous system. It can cause muscle spasms, pain, difficulty moving, loss of bodily functions and severe disability. Research is showing that it changes the muscle itself. Once this is well understood, we may understand treatment with medical marijuana and how it works to fight skeletal muscular spasticity better.

Medical Marijuana and Skeletal Muscular Spasticity

Medical Marijuana and Skeletal Muscle Spasticity Research 

A 2004 paper on a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 57 individuals with multiple sclerosis induced skeletal muscle spasticity concluded that medical marijuana can provide spasm relief and increased mobility in MS patients who are not responding well to other treatments. They further noted that medical marijuana had "tolerable" side effects in these patients. The patients were given both cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannibinol. Some were given 14 days worth of treatment while others were given fewer days of treatment broken up by placebo. They were given a number of tests to show changes in muscle spasticity. Those who were given steady treatment for two weeks showed the greatest improvement in both their perception of spasms and observable spasms, though side effects were also more likely in this group.

Another study, conducted at Oxford, showed similar results. They found that medical marijuana could indeed decrease muscle spasticity as well as other effects of multiple sclerosis, such as pain. One particularly noteworthy finding is that side effects of THC, CME (a whole plant extract as opposed to a single component) and CBD were predictable and tolerable in the study's subjects. The study included 24 individuals with skeletal muscle spasticity brought on by multiple sclerosis, neurofibromatosis, brachial plexus injury or spinal cord injury. Some of the most uncomfortable effects of these conditions, such as loss of bladder control, were alleviated by these cannabis extracts.

A much larger study was conducted on 667 multiple sclerosis patients in the UK. The findings of this study differed from those above. However, it still found that medical marijuana was useful in treating muscle spasticity. The paper's authors stated that they found no decrease in spasticity, according to the Ashworth scale. (Note: The study conducted in 2004 used several parameters to test spasticity and came to a different conclusion.) They did see a difference in patients' perception of spasticity and other discomforts. Thus, the authors concluded that even if there is no observable difference, medical marijuana could be used to treat skeletal muscle spasticity nonetheless. 

Medical Marijuana and Skeletal Muscle Spasticity Anecdotal Research and Evidence 

Anecdotal evidence collected on the topic of muscle spasticity and marijuana use has shown that some skeletal muscular spasticity sufferers experience significant relief from their symptoms when using marijuana. The research in this area goes back at least 30 years. In 1982, 43 individuals were given a survey to see how medical marijuana affected their muscle spasticity. Each of these individuals suffered muscle spasticity as a result of spinal cord injuries. Twenty-one of them said that medical marijuana reduced their muscle spasticity. 

A study conducted 15 years later contained 112 participants. The information given by the participants pertained to skeletal muscle spasticity and the pain that often comes with it. Nearly every one of them reported a reduction in skeletal muscular spasticity and related pain. This type of anecdotal research is helpful in uncovering the patient experience of medical marijuana and skeletal muscular spasticity. The sheer number of respondents experiencing relief shows that there is either something in the psychoactive components of the drug that gives them comfort or that medical marijuana affects the cause of spasticity itself. However, only observed reactions in clinical studies can prove medical marijuana's efficacy enough to introduce it to a wider patient base.

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