Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has seen a resurgence regarding its medicinal properties. For people with spinal cord injuries, they have been benefiting. There have been several studies in the last 20 years in countries across the world looking at how TCH and CBD, the two most popular properties on the cannabis plant, can help people living with paralysis.
What the studies have found reiterates what people living with SCI have said for years - that medical cannabis can help in many impactful ways. While some people may not notice any benefit, many with SCI do. Moving away from opioids and other drugs can also help in many important ways. See below to discover the most significant ways cannabis can help people living with paralysis.
Spasticity is one of the most common side-effects of anyone living with SCI. Anywhere paralysis is present, the muscles are capable of spasms if an injury to the spinal cord is present. There have been more studies on how cannabis treats spasms more than any other SCI side effect.
In a study done by the University of Manitoba, they used a synthetic cannabis drug called "Nabilone" on people experiencing muscle spasms, not just people with SCI. In this study, they discovered that 90% of people saw an improvement in their spasms after taking the drug. Another study done at the University of Arizona reported 70% of people in the study experiencing relief from cannabis.
Many people with SCI report chronic pain affecting them regularly. It is even possible for people to feel pain in areas of their body where they can't feel. Research has found that cannabinoids can activate receptors in the central nervous system, which can alter how pain is perceived by the brain.
Another study also found that if cannabis was vaporized with a low level of THC (2.9%), greater relief from their pain was found. This study was published in the Journal of Pain in 2016. The chronic pain that people experience is both musculoskeletal pain problems and/or neuropathic pain. There that was a study in 2006 as well that discovered that cannabis with massage can greatly help chronic pain in people spinal cord injuries.
And lastly, an important benefit of cannabis for pain relief is taking fewer opioids, which are notorious for their bad side-effects such as constipation, addiction, drowsiness, inhibiting breathing and the possibility of an overdose if too many are taken.
Stimulates Neuroprotective Response
THC isn't the only property in cannabis that can help people with SCI. CBD is another property that has many healing properties. In a study of how the endocannabinoid system works, researchers found that it helps balance the body's various processes.
After a spinal cord injury in the acute phase, researchers have discovered that cannabis can stimulate a neuroprotective response, helping activate two important sectors CB1 and CB2, which helps promote spontaneous recovery. These findings were discovered in a 2012 study in Spain.
After a spinal cord injury, the bladder can become overactive due to receiving no direction from the brain. A study conducted at the Switzerland Centre for Spinal Cord Injury in 2001 discovered that cannabis if inserted rectally, could make a huge impact on a person's daily muscle spasticity. In this study, the patients who took the medicine orally did not see the same response. Sadly, no further research has been done on this SCI side-effect.
A recent study in Canada and Europe found that many people with SCI suffer from insomnia. Getting comfortable/positioning and the inability to regulate one's body temperature frequently make it hard for people with SCI to fall sleep. Sleep apnea is also common in people with cervical spinal cord injuries, which cannabis can help ease. Studies also show that combining THC with CBD induces the best sleep.
CBD & Motor Function
Investigators at the University of Sao Paul in Brazil examined the impact of CBD on motor function post-SCI. They discovered CBD can help improve motor function. The study was done on rats that received injections of both placebo and CBD. These injections were done 3 hours after surgery and daily for six days after surgery. Researchers say the CBD needs to be taken within days of the injury.
CBD also has a slew of helpful side-effects such as easing muscle spasms and relief from insomnia. Make sure to talk to your doctor before taking any CBD-related products.
Written by Spinal Cord TeamSpinalCord.com has been created as a resource for patients of spinal cord injuries and their families. Find everything you need to learn more about your injury, locate a doctor or treatment center, or discover financial relief to support you through this difficult time.
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