Patients living with multiple sclerosis and other movement disorders often experience painful symptoms and inconvenient physical limitations that disrupt their daily lives. For many, medical cannabis has been found to provide unique benefits that reduce discomfort and improve quality of life.
Movement disorders such as multiple sclerosis result from a neurodegenerative process that attacks the nerves, sending disruptive signals throughout the body. Muscle spasms and contractions, along with severe pain, weakness, speech impairment and other physical symptoms can be triggered by this condition. Treatment options remain limited, with many patients receiving a challenging assortment of prescriptions aimed at alleviating both the physical and emotional consequences of the disease.
Cannabis has emerged as a popular and potentially groundbreaking treatment for movement disorders, due to the process by which cannabinoid medicines interact with the endocannabinoid system and repair damaged neurotransmitters. Leafly summarizes some key findings in the treatment of movement disorder symptoms:
Pain and sleep disturbances: According to a 2005 ”gold-standard” trial of whole-plant cannabis-based extract (oromucosal spray containing 1:1 THC:CBD), cannabis-based medication was twice as effective as placebo to treat pain, and three times more effective for sleep.
Inflammatory-related issues: Neural tissue inflammation is common as the body’s immune cells attack the central nervous system. The (well established) anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis can help MS sufferers.
Muscle spasms: A 2014 systematic review provided high-quality evidence that cannabis-based medicines were highly effective in treating muscle spasms.
Abdominal complaints: Many scientists believe cannabinoids help control gut response and modulate gastrointestinal issues. According to a survey conducted by Scottish researcher Roger Pertwee, 51-60% of respondents reported a decrease in defecation urgency, a 44% decrease in incontinence, and 30% had less constipation.
Mood issues: Most MS patients will experience depression or at least persistent mood issues. Pertwee’s survey found that more than 90% of the MS sufferers reported botanical cannabis as improving mood.
This research illustrates both the symptomatic complexity of multiple sclerosis and other movement disorders, as well as the varied ways in which cannabis medicine can provide relief. Many patients report that no other medicine is capable of addressing so many of the condition’s symptoms as effectively and with as few undesirable side effects.
Cannabis Treatment Options
Patients frequently report beneficial results when treating movement disorders with high-THC cannabis products. Sativa strains are popular for daytime use to relieve physical symptoms and improve mood, while indica strains can be used in the evening to promote relaxation and assist with sleep. Since most medical cannabis strains fit within the moderate-to-high THC category, patients have a range of options and many choose specific strains they’ve found effective for their individual treatment needs. In addition to smoked or vaporized cannabis, some patients find oral cannabis products helpful, particularly tinctures applied sublingually. Moderate doses are recommended, although patients may adjust according to their needs.
In our experience working with patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis and other movement disorders, we’ve observed the wide range of symptoms these conditions can cause and the numerous challenges they create. We’ve also had the honor of getting to know patients who’ve achieved remarkable results through cannabis treatment. To witness a patient regaining mobility and independence despite difficult circumstances is an impactful moment for anyone seeking to understand the therapeutic potential cannabis medicines possess. We’re optimistic that medical science will continue to expand our knowledge of how cannabis can be used to help patients combatting these debilitating diseases. Our staff is always available to assist patients and caregivers in finding the answers they seek.