Cannabis & spasticity

A condition that has a relatively large body of evidence when it comes to the efficacy of cannabis-based medicine is spasticity – particularly spasticity related to multiple sclerosis. While the most researched condition in relation to medical cannabis is chronic pain, spasticity is most likely the next most researched condition when it comes to cannabis treatment. 

What is spasticity?

Spasticity is a debilitating and sadly common condition that occurs alongside a number of neurological disorders or after an interruption to the upper motor neural pathway. Spasticity can also be caused by stroke or motor neurone disease. 

Spasticity is characterised by muscle spasms that occur due to issues with signals being sent from the spinal cord and the brain to the muscles. These muscle spasms can go on to weaken the involved muscles and impair coordinated movement, making these spasms often unpredictable and painful. Therefore, effective treatment should aim to combat both pain and the muscle spasms being experienced by the patient. 

Conventional medications already used to treat spasticity include: Dantrium, Tizanidine and Baclofen, which work effectively to reduce spasticity but unfortunately often come with a number of side effects including weakness and fatigue. This is why patients become interested in alternative options that may have less side effects, like medical cannabis.  

How can medical cannabis help? 

There’s evidence that the body’s CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors may be involved in the control of spasticity in multiple sclerosis, and there’s also evidence suggesting that anandamide (the endogenous ligand of CB1) may be an effective antispasticity agent itself. 

Generally, as described by Dr Edmund Bonikowski in The Academy of Medical Cannabismodule on neurological indications, research on cannabis and spasticity in MS patients has found that:

  • Those who are not experiencing full relief from their symptoms with conventional mediation may see significant improvements with cannabis treatment. 
  • Spasm frequency and sleep disturbance measurements often err in favour of cannabis treatment.
  • Cannabis often improves self-reported spasticity and Ashworth scale measurements. 

More specifically, a study carried out by Corey-Bloom et al. concluded that for participants with treatment-resistant spasticity, smoked cannabis showed better symptom and pain reduction than with placebo conditions.

Another obvious sign of the effectiveness of medical cannabis for the treatment of spasticity related to MS is the fact that medical cannabis is already in use for this indication the UK. Late last year, NICE approved the use of Sativex, an oromucosal spray containing equal parts CBD and THC, on the NHS for those suffering from spasticity related to multiple sclerosis. Like the majority of medical cannabis products, Sativex is only recommended for use when all other conventional treatments have proved ineffective. 

For more information on how medical cannabis may be effective in treating spasticity and multiple sclerosis, visit our neurological conditions and symptoms page and sign up for a consultation with one of our neurological specialists. 

We only recommend taking cannabis-based products following a consultation with a medical professional, and do not advise patients on the recreational use of any cannabis-based products. 

At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, our GMC registered specialists will identify the appropriate cannabis medicine care plan and products for patients following a comprehensive assessment which includes an in-depth evaluation of the main symptoms being targeted, current medications, pattern of symptoms and lifestyle factors such as safety-sensitive occupations. 

They will also monitor and adjust the medication on a regular basis to ensure the best effect with the fewest side effects. There is also a carefully designed process in place to monitor patients’ well-being, with follow-up appointments after a week and then every month, for three months after receiving a prescription.

To register for treatment with our specialists click here.

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