Updated on January 31, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Multiple sclerosis has no cure, and it causes a huge number of severe health problems. So, many MS patients look for safe solutions to make life with multiple sclerosis easier. As medical marijuana becomes a popular substitute for standard medicine in the United States, more and more MS patients are trying it for symptom management.
One of the more severe health issues resulting from multiple sclerosis is frequent muscle spasms. Anything that impairs your motor function interferes with your ability to conduct everyday tasks. But, conventional medication for muscle spasms doesn’t always work well for everyone.
Recently, patients with MS-related muscle spasms have tried medical marijuana and seen great results.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. When you have multiple sclerosis, your immune system mistakes the tissue protecting your brain and spinal cord for foreign tissue and attacks it. Once the protective tissue goes away, the connected nerves become damaged and scarred, causing all sorts of issues related to controlling your body.
Depending on the area where the nerve tissue scarring occurs, MS can cause muscle spasms. As a progressive disease, multiple sclerosis has symptoms that worsen over time. If left untreated, MS-related muscle spasms will become more and more severe.
To address the muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, doctors often prescribe muscle relaxants. While medicine specifically meant for MS slows the progression of the disease, it doesn’t have a direct effect on muscle spasms. So, doctors must prescribe medication for the symptoms of MS in addition to drugs that protect the nervous system.
The two most commonly prescribed anti-spasticity drugs for multiple sclerosis are baclofen and tizanidine. Baclofen is the most popular one overall, but it can cause muscle weakness and drowsiness. Tizanidine kicks in more quickly, but it can cause sedation, dry mouth and sometimes lower blood pressure.
Patients are increasingly using cannabis to treat muscle spasms caused by a variety of conditions, including multiple sclerosis. Many states approve marijuana specifically for muscle spasms, due to any underlying condition.
The research and data we have show promise for the use of marijuana as a muscle relaxant. One study found that marijuana improved subjects’ spasms twice as well as a placebo. Another observed a more 20% symptom improvement when patients used a cannabis spray for a month.
Additionally, marijuana works as an immunosuppressant. While this sounds like a bad thing, it can actually help out patients dealing with MS and muscle spasms. It also addresses the cause of your multiple sclerosis and inflammation.
Inflammation is an important immune response, but when you have too much inflammation, it can cause muscle spasms. Cannabis reduces inflammation for any patient experiencing muscle spasms, but it especially helps with MS-related muscle spasms. The two most prominent chemicals in marijuana, THC and CBD, reduce the phenotype that triggers MS-related inflammation.
As we talked about earlier, multiple sclerosis results from your immune system attacking your healthy cells. When you take in cannabinoids from weed, the cannabinoids react directly with your cannabinoid receptors, which are parts of your cells especially made to process cannabinoids. One type of cannabinoid receptor affects the immune system. When cannabinoids bond to it, it reduces the signals sent from your brain to your immune system.
To learn more about weed and MS, check out our guide for multiple sclerosis patients. Remember, we can’t substitute the advice of a professional physician. Visit a cannabis-positive doctor listed in our database before using marijuana, or find a local dispensary to speak with a budtender.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Multiple Sclerosis, check out our resources: