An “insult to the brain” is the diagnosis reached by A.B. Ward (2008), the leading expert on spasticity. His full brand reads, “Director, North Staffordshire Rehabilitation Centre, University Hospital of North Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent.”
Ward considers spasticity a “physiological consequence of an insult to the brain or spinal cord, that can lead to life-threatening, disabling and costly consequences,” characterized by muscle hyper-activity that leaves victims with disruption in muscular-neurology.
This manifests as trembling, jerking, or stiffness. It follows Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, brain trauma, cardiac events, Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, spinal cord damage, and other disabling neurological conditions.
The muscle spasms can be mild and often managed with physical therapy and prescription medications. Left without treatment, spasms can lead to debilitating and disabling and life-changing problems.
The tightened muscles lead to muscle shortening that causes deformity. With contractions and over-loaded sensory points, the whole-body mechanics change. For example, contracted leg muscles can cause a limp or foot-drag which creates spinal discord. This loss of function encourages degenerative disc disease and pain. And, all of this contributes to poor body image and depression.
Treatments for Muscle Spasms
Consumer Reports says, “If those don’t help, a good next step is to try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and generics), ibuprofen (Advil and generics), or naproxen (Aleve and generics). Adding a muscle relaxant to the mix has not been shown in studies to be any better at providing relief from this kind of pain than just taking one of the OTC pain relievers.”
But, Consumer Reports is addressing the muscle spasms associated with lower back, neck, and headaches. Without diminishing the pain of those conditions or the impact on the victims, you should think of “spasticity” as referring to a broader neuro-muscular physiology.
Flexeril and cyclobenzaprine are the most commonly used muscle relaxants, but Drugs.com lists over 20 options with side-effects and user reviews. And, most medical professionals are reluctant to prescribe relaxants as a long-term solution because of their sedating and possibly addictive effects.
Even when prescribed, they are recommended as part of a therapeutic regimen including physical therapy, diet, and life-style changes.
Alternative Treatments for Muscle Spasms
Chiropractic care, acupuncture, yoga, and tai chi are all recommended options. Naturalists recommend using Rosemary, KavaKava, and Wild Yam for their anti-inflammatory benefits.
Home remedies balance potassium and magnesium intake, promote adequate hydration, and apply heat and/or cold to affected areas. And, some patients use chamomile tea, cherry juice, or Vitamin-D supplements.
However, as a condition, spasticity requires consistent and monitored care. And, medical marijuana has helped patients with occasional problems from muscular spasm pain to those with chronic and debilitating problems.
How Medical Marijuana Treats Muscle Spasms
WebMD.com says, “Medical marijuana may help calm your spasms and let you move your arms and legs more freely,” and it quotes a patient who remarks how it takes the edge off his daily physical problems.
Marijuana is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. The cannabinoids released by cannabis affect the endocannabinoid system that runs throughout the body’s tissues, nerves, and organs. They provoke a neuro-chemical balance where there was none.
That balance restores the neurological flow that carries messages to and from the brain. It can mask pain and calm contractions. So, while cannabis topicals might benefit the occasional leg or back spasm, where spasticity is a symptom of a disordered brain misfiring, it needs intake through edibles or smoking.
Cannabis has two key elements, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). It’s the THC that produces the psychoactive high, and the CBD that produces the muscular and neurological sedation. So, medical marijuana patients seeking to reduce or relieve muscle spasms should opt for strains with a measurable CBD presence.
Best Strains for Treating Muscle Spasms
Alien Dawg is a potent Sativa with a touch of diesel. There’s a rough heady rush followed by a fully productive head for the rest of the day.
Dragons Tooth is a Sativa (90%)/Indica (10%) hybrid that tastes of grapes, blueberry, and some diesel. It also comes as an edible mint.
Grapefruit Kush gives off a strong citrus scent with little flavor underneath. The moderate rush makes users Sativa sleepy with a temptation to stretch limbs and muscles. It makes it a favorite among regular users without a taste for adventure.
Green Haze X Thai is a Sativa high hybrid. Woody aroma and taste with potent mental and psychedelic punch. Users must anticipate the potency can lead to agitation, so it is not always the treatment of choice for spasticity.
KC-36 is a Indica-dominant hybrid (85:15). It offers a fast, powerful body high, happy and fully relaxed. It’s good for comfort and peace, enough to distract users from daily stress and pain.
Kali Mist is a Sativa-dominant hybrid with a sweet smell and taste. Users report a clear mind and floating cerebral high that lets you work throughout the day.
Lemon Skunk is Sativa-dominant, too. With a lemony taste under very skunky aroma. Reaction starts slow but leads to euphoric relaxation, enough to forget or set aside the pain.
Maui, the Hawaiian Punch, is Indica strong. Earthy, spicy, and full-bodied, Maui calms the brain and melts the body into a long-lasting effect. It’s recommended for evening or nighttime use because it puts you into a peaceful sleep.
Moby Dick is not for newbies. With a 20% THC, it will hit hard with a lasting psychoactive effect. The follow-through is fully relaxing without paralysis. Its Sativa rush comes through its vanilla and eucalyptus smoke.
White Diesel is a legendary Sativa with a sweet and skunky aroma and taste with a touch of the diesel. Highly potent, it brings on a very heady and relaxing buzz.
Medical Marijuana for Treating Muscle Spasms
Everyone experiences a muscle spasm from time to time. That occasional spasm might come from too much work or muscular strain. It might come from low potassium and/or magnesium.
For others, spasms are a constant reminder of some muscular-skeletal like degenerative disc or joint problems.
For many others, spasms are a debilitating companion to chronic brain dysfunction. Disorders like palsies need therapy and attention to relieve suffering and sustain some quality of life. An increasing number of such afflicted people find relief in medical marijuana.
As for the role of cannabis in a natural approach to treating muscle spasms, it is not offered as a cure. Still, for some it can reduce the pain, frequency, and intensity of spasms. And, for many of them, its main benefit lies in suppressing the sense and memory of pain.