Updated on January 5, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Parkinson’s disease and other disorders that cause bradykinesia significantly reduce a patient’s mobility. Bradykinesia impedes daily tasks like washing the dishes or brushing your teeth. But, medical marijuana can help you manage this symptom if you know how to use it properly.
Bradykinesia, the signature symptom of Parkinson’s disease, causes the sufferer to move much more slowly or remain immobile. Patients dealing with bradykinesia can look like they don’t make any facial expressions. Although bradykinesia can make daily functioning harder, patients can delay its progression with the right treatment.
Parkinson’s disease affects around one million patients in the U.S. It reduces the dopamine levels in someone’s brain. Low dopamine is usually known as a symptom of depression, but dopamine also bridges the connection between your mind and movement.
In other words, Parkinson’s disease makes it difficult to move. In addition to bradykinesia, it can cause stiffness, tremors, muscle spasms and unsteadiness. Since it’s linked to low dopamine levels, it can also cause anxiety, depression and memory issues.
Although people over 50 make up the largest population of patients living with Parkinson’s, some get it earlier in life. One well-known patient is Michael J. Fox, who received his diagnosis at 29 years old.
Records from all over the world indicate Parkinson’s has affected people for centuries. However, we still don’t know how to cure it. Doctors prescribe medicine and special treatments that slow the onset of symptoms and make the patient more comfortable.
Doctors prescribe a variety of medicine to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s:
Most physicians also recommend two surgeries to reduce symptoms. To increase the absorption of levodopa and carbidopa, some doctors will use a tube to apply them directly to the digestive system. Another procedure involves electrically stimulating the part of the brain that controls motor functions.
Patients can also make some lifestyle changes to ease their symptoms. A fiber-rich diet will help with the digestive issues associated with the disease. Exercise and vitamins can cut down all symptoms.
As we’ve learned, Parkinson’s disease messes with your brain chemistry. Bradykinesia results from reduced dopamine levels, so antioxidants and antidepressants can mitigate your movement problems. Medical marijuana can serve both purposes to protect your brain and boost its dopamine level.
Every kind of marijuana plant has antioxidants in it. So, just about any MMJ you use will give you the benefits this substance provides. You can eat a diet rich in antioxidants to enhance the effect.
On the other hand, you need to take more caution when picking a cannabis medicine for mental health purposes. Some strains of marijuana will make you feel more alert and upbeat, and others will calm you down. Additionally, since we all have a unique body chemistry, some patients experience side effects like paranoia when using MMJ.
Since the medical marijuana industry is going through a huge growth spurt right now, clinical research isn’t always out there for its effects on certain disorders — but a few do cover Parkinson’s and its associated bradykinesia.
A 2004 study indicates 45% of its participants experienced less bradykinesia and continued to feel more benefits when they kept using medical cannabis for three more months. Most participants in a 2014 study reported better motor functions shortly after using MMJ.
If you decide to try medical marijuana as a treatment for your bradykinesia, you should use it as a supplement to your medicine rather than a replacement. You can use it to substitute some of your medication if it works well, but MMJ can’t replicate the benefits of every bradykinesia medication.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, check out our resources: