Cannabis for Dystonia
Dystonia is a type of movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract uncontrollably. This contraction affects body parts, resulting in involuntary twists, repetitive movements, and abnormal postures. Dystonia can occur differently: either an entire muscle group, just one muscle, or the entire body.
Dystonia can be mild or severe, and oftentimes its symptoms will progress through stages. Symptoms of dystonia include a “dragging leg”, cramping in the foot, involuntary pulling of the neck, uncontrollable blinking, and speech difficulties. Fatigue or stress can trigger or exacerbate the symptoms. People with dystonia often report feeling exhausted or tired due to the constant muscle movements. When dystonia manifests during childhood, it tends to affect the foot or hand first until it progresses to the rest of the body. During adolescence, progression can slow down.
Dystonia is caused by a problem in the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that is in charge of controlling muscle contractions. The problems happen because nerve cells can no longer communicate effectively. Acquired dystonia is a form of the disease which occurs as a result of a damaged basal ganglia. This damage can happen because of brain trauma, strokes, tumors, oxygen deprivation, an infection, bad reactions to medicines or drugs, or poisoning from carbon monoxide or lead. Primary or idiopathic dystonia is inherited from parents, although some individuals are considered carriers of the disorder yet never develop the condition. Even if family members share dystonia, symptoms can vary among them.
Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder, and affects 250,000 Americans. It’s a rare condition and very little is understood about it but one thing is for sure: dystonia is a life-changing and severe condition that prevents patients from living normal lives. Patients with dystonia have a difficult time being parents, keeping jobs, and even doing the most simple of tasks each day.
How Cannabis Can Help
In 2002, a case study was published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management about the effectiveness of cannabis in treating a 42-year-old patient who has dystonia and suffered from chronic pain. Prior to taking cannabis, the patient rated his chronic pain level as a 9 on a scale of 0-10. After he consumed cannabis, she said her subjective pain was at zero. She also no longer needed to rely on pharmaceutical pain killers for the next two days. The authors of the study said, “No other treatment intervention to date had resulted in such dramatic overall improvement in condition.”
In 2004, the same journal released another study about a 25-year-old dystonia patient who found relief from using cannabis. On the same year, German researchers at the Hannover Medical School conducted a placebo-controlled study of a 38-year-old pianist who was able to play “technically demanding” music after being administered with just 5mg of THC. The patient also reported “a clear improvement of motor control”.
There are also numerous cases of anecdotal evidence from patients who have successfully been able to use cannabis to treat dystonia. One patient is named Dennis Lillico from British Columbia; his dystonia is stress-induced and gives him pain as well as severe depression. He has said:
“[My doctors] have documented in their records that even the best medical drugs out there, the newest drugs out there, are only working for 1 percent of this disability,” said Lillico, “whereas cannabis helps me with 90 percent.”
“I do believe, with what modern science has to offer me, that cannabis is the best medication possible for my condition. Cannabis is the only medicine that has given me any relief.”
Another patient, 47-year-old Michelle Weber, also said:
“[Dystonia] is devastating to people socially and economically. We’re not the glamour illness. We don’t have the celebrity spokesman.”
While there are many forms of pharmaceutical medications to alleviate and manage the symptoms of dystonia, they are not always effective and just like other drugs will have side effects. Medical cannabis provides a safe and natural alternative to patients of dystonia, and can especially help in managing other symptoms such as nausea, appetite loss, and severe pain.
Have you used cannabis to treat dystonia? Share your experience with us in the comments below!
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