Can Cannabis Be Used to Treat Spinal Cord Disease-Related Lesions?

Updated on June 11, 2018.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Can Cannabis Be Used to Treat Spinal Cord Disease-Related Lesions?

A potential complication that can arise when a patient has spinal cord disease is spinal lesions. Lesions on the spinal cord can be both extremely painful and difficult to manage. Depending on where the lesion is and its severity, it can cause other debilitating symptoms, as well.

When spinal cord disease leads to lesions on the spinal cord, there are limited treatment options available. However, medical marijuana can treat both the pain and associated symptoms caused by spinal lesions.

What Are Spinal Cord Lesions?

In simple terms, a spinal cord lesion is an abnormal change that occurs in the cells or tissue of the spinal cord. The spinal cord is an essential part of the central nervous system, which means any damage that occurs can interfere with its ability to transmit messages between the body and the brain.

Although spinal cord lesions can be caused by injury, they’re specifically caused by some underlying infection or disorder, such as multiple sclerosis, when they’re related to spinal cord disease.

Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Lesion

Because of its key role in the nervous system, a lesion on the spinal cord can be accompanied by severe symptoms. Depending on the location of the lesion, it can impair motor and sensory function, as well as cause other debilitating side effects, such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Sleeping disorders
  • And more

How Marijuana Treats Spinal Cord Lesions

The cannabinoids found in marijuana give the plant its medical benefits by interacting with receptors located in our body’s endocannabinoid system. These receptors can be found everywhere in the body and impact our nervous system, digestive system, emotional health and more.

The reason cannabis helps those with spinal cord lesions is because it can address many of the symptoms associated with this condition. If you have a spinal cord disease that has produced lesions, some of the benefits of medical marijuana include that it:

  • Simplifies Pain Management: Many pain medications can only tackle a certain type of pain. But, medical marijuana is able to treat any kind of pain, including nerve pain. The cannabinoids in the plant work with the central nervous system to regulate pain perception. Although opioids can also treat neuropathic pain, these types of drugs are highly addictive and can lead to an unhealthy dependence.
  • Produces a Neuroprotective Response: The trauma caused by lesions can leave a lasting impact on the spinal cord. Studies have found that cannabis can actually help the spine recover to a certain degree. Cannabinoids produce a neuroprotective response by activating CB1 and CB2 receptors, which the endocannabinoid system uses to bring balance to our bodies. Even a partial recovery from a lesion could be a huge benefit for patients.
  • Reduces Muscle Spasticity: A painful side effect of spinal cord lesions is muscle spasticity, which is when nerve messages are interrupted, resulting in muscles that spasm, jerk violently or become stiff. As far back as the 1800s, physicians knew cannabis helped control muscle spasms and spasticity. Today, states all over the U.S. are approving patients with spasticity to use medical marijuana.

Apply to Your State’s Medical Marijuana Program

If you struggle with a disease that has caused lesions on your spinal cord, apply to your state’s medical marijuana program. Cannabis can help you manage your symptoms, and although it’s not a cure, it may allow your spinal cord some degree of recovery.

If you have specific questions about the benefits of medical marijuana, contact a marijuana doctor near you. They can assess your condition, offer you advice and help you start the process of becoming part of a compassionate cannabis program.

Information About Medical Marijuana & Spinal Cord Disease