From a tight cramping in the arm to a tweaked back after a hard workout to a sudden “Charlie horse” in your calf muscle, we’ve all experienced a muscle spasm or cramp from time to time. But sometimes muscle spasms are chronic and debilitating, as with diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Tourette’s syndrome.
Unfortunately, there really aren’t any conventional treatments that work—they may offer small improvements, but they usually come with serious side effects. Can cannabis help incapacitating muscle spasms where pharmaceuticals can’t? The good news is that marijuana shows promise as an effective treatment for muscle spasms associated with these conditions.
Current Treatment Options for Muscle Spasms
Conventional treatment for muscle spasms generally consists of muscle relaxants or barbiturates, both of which have high potential for abuse and a long list of serious side effects including:
- Gastrointestinal disturbance
- Memory problems
- Muscle weakness
- Slowed heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Sudden muscle weakness
Serious allergic reactions are a possibility, and coma and death have been reported.
Studies Show Cannabis is Effective Against Muscle Spasms
A 2014 study in Clinical Neuropharmacology had participants suffering from Parkinson’s disease smoke marijuana. They reported a reduction in tremors and involuntary movements.
The same year the Journal of Psychopharmacology reported on another study where participants ingested 300mg of cannabidiol (CBD) daily. Those involved in the study reported an increase in the quality of life and wellbeing. This is particularly noteworthy because CBD is a non-psychoactive compound so for muscle spasm sufferers who don’t want to feel “high” but who want to try the healing properties of marijuana, CBD is a great option.
For folks who suffer from muscle spasms and want to try a cannabis product, strains or oils with a high CBD to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ratio is a good place to start. It always takes a bit of experimentation to see what strains and ingestion methods work for you.
Cannabis-Based Medication Available in Canada
Currently in Canada there’s a cannabis-derived medication available called Sativex. It’s a spray that Health Canada has approved for MS patients. While research is ongoing, Health Canada says the promising effectiveness of Sativex was enough for their approval. It’s refreshing that cannabis has finally been acknowledged as a legitimate treatment for a serious health condition.