Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Although almost everyone has experienced them before, muscle spasms become a serious problem when they happen all the time. Patients with conditions like multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis deal with them as a common symptom, as well as people with other disorders. Whether they’re mild or severe, frequent muscle spasms can interfere with your quality of life.
Studies show that medical marijuana can relieve the inflammation and tension associated with disorders that cause muscle spasms. Reducing spasticity with cannabis medicine also lowers the rate and severity of spasms.
People with chronic conditions often experience muscle spasms due to spasticity, or increased muscle tone and tightness. Corey-Bloom et al. explored the possibility of using cannabis to relieve this hard-to-treat symptom. In particular, they wanted to see how it affected patients with multiple sclerosis.
A total of 30 patients completed the study. For three days, each participant smoked either marijuana or a placebo cigarette once a day. Then, after an 11-day washout, they took the treatment they didn’t take in the previous stage. The team evaluated the subjects before and after treatment for spasticity levels and other MS symptoms.
The study found the cannabis cigarettes provided much more symptom relief than the placebo. When the patients had marijuana, they had a significantly lower average spasticity score. In addition to relieving spasticity, the cannabis medicine reduced the subjects’ pain levels, making their condition more comfortable to manage.
Wade et al. also wanted to understand the effects of medical marijuana on patients dealing with MS symptoms. Instead of focusing on only spasticity, they prioritized a range of symptoms that included spasticity, pain and muscle spasms.
The scientists recruited 160 outpatient patients with multiple sclerosis, who they treated with oral sprays containing either cannabinoids or a placebo. The treatment that had cannabinoids in it included an equal ratio of THC and CBD. The team based their primary outcomes on each patient’s most severe symptom to account for the different ways people experience MS.
Compared to the placebo, the medical marijuana significantly lowered each patient’s symptom score regardless of their chosen symptom. In particular, the participants benefited the most from a large difference in spasticity scores. None of the patients had any severe side effects, with some only dealing with mild intoxication.
Although medical marijuana has plenty of potential to relieve symptoms like muscle spasms, many countries still don’t allow children to use it. However, pediatric patients deal with hard-to-treat symptoms like spasticity, too. So, Kuhlen et al. examined the effects of dronabinol, a THC oil, on children with spasticity.
They worked with 16 patients who ranged from one to 26 years old. All subjects had neurological conditions that caused spasticity as a symptom. Over the course of five years, the team documented dronabinol’s efficacy and side effects.
Twelve patients, or 75% of the participants, had their spasticity greatly or completely relieved. As long as they started with small doses and worked their way up, the children rarely had side effects. While the median length of treatment for the subjects was 181 days, some patients took the dronabinol for years without any issues.
The above studies show that marijuana medicine works as a safe, reliable remedy for treatment-resistant muscle spasms and spasticity. To learn more about using medical cannabis to relieve muscle spasms, check out our comprehensive guide on the subject. Once you feel you are ready to get a recommendation, use our directory to find a cannabis-positive physician in your area.