A spinal cord injury (SCI) can be devastating. More than 300,000 people in the United States cope with SCI, according to Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. The injury causes varying degrees of loss of strength, sensation, and function below the site of injury. In addition, most sufferers also live with chronic pain. Cannabis effectively treats pain, muscle spasms, depression, and insomnia brought on by SCI. In addition, some SCI sufferers report an improvement in bladder and bowel control.
The Cannabinoids in Cannabis that Help Spinal Injury Sufferers
The two main cannabinoids found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are crucial in bringing relief to SCI patients. Many patients are turning to cannabis to replace opiate use which has an elevated risk of addiction and overdose.
- CBD: The cannabinoid CBD has remarkable painkilling properties. In addition, it also reduces spasticity and improves motor function.
- THC: Although THC has psychoactive properties, it also improves SCI symptoms by reducing pain, improving bladder control, easing muscle spasms, and assisting with insomnia.
Medical Benefits of Marijuana for SCI Sufferers
Here are a few ways that an SCI will benefit from using medical marijuana:
- Reduced pain
- Relieves muscle spasms (in many patients the use of cannabis with anti-spastic medications such as baclofen can prove highly beneficial).
- Does not suppress breathing (which is common with opioid use)
- You cannot overdose using marijuana as you can with opioids.
- Does not cause constipation, which is common when narcotics are used to control pain.
- No physical addiction.
- Safe and well-tolerated compared to many prescription pharmaceutical drugs.
Cannabis Reduces Muscle Spasticity
Besides suffering from chronic and often severe pain, SCI sufferers also often must deal with spasticity. Any time an injury occurs to the spinal cord, the flow of nerve messages becomes disrupted. The messed-up signals often cause overactive or spastic muscle responses that cause mild tremors or violent movements. Some spasms are so severe that the sufferer can fall out of bed or out of a chair. The history of cannabis to treat spasticity is extremely long. In 1839, Dr. William O-Shaughnessy documented the effects of cannabis extracts on controlling spasticity. Then in 1890, Dr. J. Rehnalds also confirmed that cannabis reduced muscle spasms. In a study undertaken by the University of Arizona, it was shown that 70 percent of patients suffering from muscle spasms were able to effectively control their spasticity using cannabis.
Understanding How Cannabis Works
The body’s endocannabinoid system contains certain receptors known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant actively bind with the body’s endocannabinoid system’s receptors. When bound with the receptors a pharmacologic effect takes place that focuses on the body’s central nervous system and immune system. The perception of pain is significantly reduced due to the cannabis reacting with the receptors in the nervous system that regulate pain.
How to Ingest Cannabis to Treat SCI
One of the best ways to ingest cannabis compounds so they pass rapidly into the bloodstream is smoking or vaping. Vaping is easier on the lungs and throat. Some users opt to ingest cannabis products in the form of tinctures, capsules, oils, edibles, and gummies.
Undoubtedly, research has revealed that cannabis is an effective treatment option for sufferers of spinal cord injuries. The use of medical marijuana significantly reduces the unpleasant side effects of SCI.