Muscle spasms and cramps are a fairly common problem. Most people experience them after prolonged fatigue or dehydration. Muscle contractions can feel uncomfortable or even painful, but fortunately, they are usually innocent and fleeting. However, muscle spasms can also result from chronic conditions like MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, or cerebral palsy. Whether you experience harmless cramps after exercise or more permanent symptoms, though, cannabis may have a positive effects on muscle spasms and related problems.
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Muscle Spasms And Cramps: What Are They And Could Cannabis Help?
In the event of muscle cramps or muscle spasms, the fibres of our muscles contract suddenly and uncontrollably. They are usually quite harmless, but they can be painful nonetheless. Although muscle spasms have different causes than epileptic seizures, these two symptoms are known to coincide. Innocent as regular muscle cramps may be, anyone experiencing their more chronic expressions knows that they can seriously affect one’s quality of living.
We can distinguish three types of muscle tissue:
- Cardiac muscle tissue: the muscle cells found in the walls of the heart operate beyond our external control. These special muscle cells do not require stimulation by hormones or nerves. Heart muscle tissue appears striped and grooved.
- Smooth muscle tissue is found in the surface of hollow ventral organs such as the bowels and urinary tract, as well as in arteries. These muscles are also beyond our conscious control.
- Skeletal or striated muscle tissue can be controlled by conscious willpower. We use them to move our body. Skeletal muscles are attached to our bones by means of tendons, and they amount to about 40% of an average person’s body weight.
Causes And Consequences Of Muscle Spasticity
Muscles may contract uncontrollably for various reasons. In the absence of underlying illnesses, muscle cramps can be caused by heavy burdening (exercise or physical labour), hot and cold weather, poor circulation, lack of fluids, or mineral deficits including potassium and magnesium depletion. The innocent type of muscle spasms can be treated with simple remedies such as eating a magnesium-rich banana, hydration, or using supplements.
However, muscle spasms can also be a symptom associated with a number of chronic conditions, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Tourette’s, and cerebral palsy. Each of these conditions can cause severe muscle cramps. Repeated powerful muscle contractions causes muscles to shrink and lose power, as well as decreasing people’s control over their body. Severe spasms can eventually force someone to adopt abnormal postures. That makes such muscle spasms a potential cause of disability with debilitating impact on everyday life.
How Cannabis Could Help With ALS, MS & More
People affected by chronic muscle spasms are usually prescribed medication such as muscle relaxants including Baclofen and Benzodiazepines. These drugs come with multiple serious side-effects, including numbness, dizzy spells, and nausea. These types of drugs can also be addictive.
Current scientific interest is focussing on cannabis in the treatment of muscle cramps and spasms. Researched are particularly excited about the potential of the cannabinoids THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is well-known for causing the psychoactive high associated with marijuana, whereas CBD is non-psychoactive with soothing and analgesic properties. Both cannabis compounds can help reduce muscle spasms and cramps in their own way, however. They act upon the receptors of the endocannabinoid system. This system, which extends all throughout the various tissues, nerves, and organs of the human body, regulates a range of physiological processes as it strives to maintain the biochemical balance of the body as a whole.
Muscle spasms can be caused by inflammation. Studies show that muscle injuries trigger inflammatory responses by the immune system. THC has an inhibitory effect on such inflammation reactions, enabling it to help deactivate inflammatory proteins.
Inflammation recovery can restore regular relay of messenger signals from the brain to the muscles via the nervous system. This can result in reduction of spasms. In addition, cannabis compounds can have analgesic and soothing effects, which can further reduce the impact of muscle cramps and spasms. Chronic diseases such as MS and ALS are also based on inflammation problems.
Studying Cannabis For Muscle Spasms And Cramps
The above explains why we currently have several types of medication based on cannabis extracts. One of these drugs is Nabiximols, developed especially for people suffering from MSS (Multiple Sclerosis with Spasticity). As 90% of all MS patients eventually develop muscle spasms, it is great to see cannabis based medication become available, as holds for cramps as well, of course.
A 2011 Czech study into Nabiximols for MS involved 572 patients. Over half of all subjects reported improvement of symptoms by more than 20% after one month of treatment.
A German study conducted in 2014 also investigated the effectiveness of Nabiximols. After one month, almost 75% of participants indicated that the drug relieved their spasm symptoms. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 indicating the most severe symptoms), average scores dropped from 6 to 2. Subjects also reported drastically improved freedom of movement. The drug was well-tolerated, and no increased muscle weakness was apparent. This is a very common side-effect for most other medication.
Further studies also highlight the potential of cannabis for muscle spasms and cramps. In one 2012 research setup, 37 MS patients received either cannabis or a placebo. Cannabis group participants showed marked reductions in spasticity as well as in pain. Interestingly, cannabis did not cause any detrimental effects. The sole aspect to take into account would be the psychoactive effects of cannabis, which may occur in treating muscle spasms and cramps.
Using Cannabis For Cramps Or Muscle Spasms
It seems as if cannabis has a lot of potential for people suffering from cramps and muscle spasms. Fortunately, research on the matter is well underway, which has already resulted in cannabis-based medication and treatment options.
If you are considering using cannabis for cramps or (chronic) muscle spasms, however, we strongly advise you to consult your doctor on the matter; especially if you are using regular medication. Finding the right dose is important, as is determining the best way to optimally enjoy the potential benefits of cannabis. Still, growing medicinal cannabis is a viable option for many people suffering from cramps and muscle spasms. It doesn’t even have to be difficult to do at home. Our special blog on growing weed for medicinal purposes explains which strains to try for specific symptoms in more detail.
Growers have access to a full range of first-class cannabis seeds, each with its own particular traits and effects. Our Spicebomb strain is an interesting example: a strong indica cannabis variant with a full compliment of associated bodybuzz effects. Perfect for relaxing the muscles as well as the mind!