Cannabis For Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are one of the most devastating type of injuries. Even a minor injury to the spinal cord could render you paralyzed, unable to feel or move your arms or legs. The reason why spinal cord injuries are so distressing is because it contains nerves that are responsible for sending messages between the brain and the rest of your body.
There are around 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries in the United States alone each year, with 250,000 left disabled from their injuries. Such a condition can result in the inability to move, and it may even affect body organ function. But the most common areas of injury are the thoracic and cervical areas of the spine. It can cause permanent disability, and even death in both children and adults.
There are two main types of spinal cord injuries: a complete injury and an incomplete injury. A complete injury means that there is no longer any function below the level of injury; neither is there movement or sensation, and it affects both sides of the body. This can affect any level in the spinal cord. On the other hand, an incomplete injury means that there is still some kind of function below the level of injury, which means that it is still possible to move one limb or feel certain parts in the body.
Spinal cord injuries affect motor sensory and function, and lead to severe pain. Some of the most common problems faced by patient with spinal cord injuries include excruciating pain, muscle, and difficulty sleeping.
How Cannabis Helps Spinal Cord Injuries
A significant majority of people with spinal cord injuries suffer from chronic pain. The pain can last for months, and even years after the injury occurred. Pain from spinal cord injuries can affect the entire body, even in areas where you can no longer feel a sensation.
Research over the past few decades have shown how beneficial cannabis is for spinal cord injuries especially when it comes to the following:
Muscle spasticity: Muscle spasticity is a condition that results from uncontrollably tight or contracted muscles. It can lead to speech impediments, and can limit a person’s movements. Around 65-78% of people with spinal cord injuries suffer from muscle spasticity. A study conducted by researchers from the Department of Medicine at the University of Manitoba in Canada examined the effects of a synthetic cannabinoid called Nabilone on 12 patients, who reported a significant reduction in muscle spasticity. Another 2007 study, this time from the Switzerland Center for Spinal Cord Injuries examined the impact of THC on muscle spasticity. The researchers assessed 25 patients with spinal cord injuries, all of whom were given THC via oral administration. The patients reported relief from muscle spasticity following treatment with THC, so the researchers concluded that THC is indeed an effective, safe treatment for muscle spasticity.
Pain relief: Cannabis’ ability to treat pain caused by a myriad of conditions is perhaps one of its most widely-documented benefits. Without proper treatment, patients with spinal cord injuries can live a lifetime of chronic pain. Considering that 4 out of 5 patients with spinal cord injuries have chronic pain, finding a suitable medication is necessary for restoring quality of life. Opioid pain medications are usually the first course of treatment, but while opioids are powerful painkillers, it comes at a price. Opioids have harmful side effects, are not ideal for long-term use, and it’s so addictive it may lead to death. Studies show that using opioids to treat spinal cord injuries may cause impaired recovery and worse, can even add to the pain. But cannabis is 100% natural and safe, and can treat even the most severe pain caused by spinal cord injuries. A report in the Journal of Pain discusses the effects of cannabis in treating neuropathic pain caused by spinal cord injuries; 42 patients were given either vaporized cannabis containing 2.9% of 6.7% THC, while others were given placebo. The patients were then given the option to inhale 4-8 more times. After repeating this for three occasions, the researchers found that cannabis was helpful in providing the patients relief from pain, but more importantly, they found that the lowest dose of 2.9% THC was the most effective in treating neuropathic pain.
Bladder control: The spinal cord plays an important role in helping control the bladder. When your bladder is full, the brain communicates with the spinal cord to relax the sphincter muscle, and once this message has been sent, urine passes through the body. When a person has a spinal cord injury, the brain can no longer send these messages, and with paralysis comes the inability to control the bladder. This results in an overactive bladder. But in 2001, the Switzerland Center for Spinal Cord Injury conducted a study to assess how cannabis may be beneficial for an overactive bladder caused by a spinal cord injury. The patients were given THC either rectally or orally over 6 weeks, and at the end of the study, those that were given oral THC showed little improvement in bladder control but the patients who received THC rectally showed a marked improvement in bladder activity.
Have you used cannabis to treat spinal cord injuries? Share your experience in the comments below!
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