What would you do if, one day, you couldn’t feel your arms or legs anymore? What if you couldn’t perform your regular work and life activities and instead, you had to rely on others to make it through each day? Although one may be able to imagine themselves in this situation, it’s nothing compared to living it.
According to BrainandSpinalCord.org, each year, as many as 5 million Americans are impacted by a spinal cord injury (SCI). At this moment though, around 300,000 people are living with a SCI in the U.S. On average, spinal cord injuries are often debilitating, and they take a toll on an individual’s quality of life. On the bright side, cannabis and cannabinoids like THC and CBD can positively impact one’s well-being by delivering various medicinal benefits and relieving many painful side effects caused by this injury. Read on to learn more about spinal cord injuries, their prevalence, how cannabis can help treat their side effects, and how cannabinoids can improve one’s quality of life.
The Purpose of Spinal Cords & The Causes and Prevalence of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are various causes of spinal cord injuries including sports, violent events/trauma, falls, and motor vehicle accidents. It turns out that around 42 percent of all SCI are due to motor vehicle accidents. SCI can affect anyone of any age, but the majority of SCI affect people from ages 16-30, and about 80 percent of those cases are men. As mentioned above, annually, 4-5 million Americans are diagnosed with SCI. Overall, once the spine is impacted by trauma, one experiences a loss of many functions including a loss of sensory motor function.
In addition, the spinal cord is a vital part of the central nervous system. The purpose of the spinal cord is to control, coordinate, and synchronize various activities within our bodies. Also, our spinal cord has different jobs with one of them being the communication of messages between the brain and the body. As a result, this gives us the opportunity to move about and feel different sensations. When it comes to SCI, the severity depends on the cause, and based on where the injury is exactly and its height, the severity of it will differ. Generally, SCI affect one’s sensory motor function in addition to delivering painful side effects.
Debilitating Side Effects Caused by SCI
Aside from different forms of paralysis, those with SCI often experience negative complications and side effects including chronic pain, sleeping difficulties, and muscle spasms. Out of all side effects caused by SCI, the majority of SCI patients experience chronic pain regularly. Those with SCI can experience pain in regions where sensations are in addition to areas where there aren’t any sensations. The different types of pain that are felt by SCI patients include neuropathic, musculoskeletal, and visceral pain. As a result, many of these individuals suffer from a decline in their quality of life and overall well-being.
Cannabis as a Natural Treatment Method for SCI: How It Can Help
Fortunately, though, different research findings have shown that cannabis, CBD, and THC can help deliver relief to SCI patients. Not only can the cannabis plant help reduce the side effects and complications caused by SCI, it’s also believed that the plant can help the body fix itself. For centuries, cannabis has been used as a pain-reliever, and to this day, cannabis and CBD are used as natural analgesics. It has been discovered from one study that cannabis works to regulate pain perception amongst those suffering from different levels of pain. Another study found that when cannabis is combined with massages, the most pain-relief was experienced by SCI sufferers.
Although the cannabis plant is an effective pain-reliever, it can also deliver many other medicinal and therapeutic benefits. For example, from one study, numerous researchers suggest that cannabis can arouse a neuroprotective response. The following was stated in conclusion of the study, “Our results suggest that the endocannabinoids acting through CB1 and CB2 receptors are part of an early neuroprotective response triggered after SCI that is involved in the spontaneous recovery after an incomplete lesion.” Thus far, since cannabinoid usage delivers analgesic properties and a neuroprotective response, there’s hope for SCI patients.
Research Findings about Cannabis Helping Treat Muscle Spasms: A Common SCI Side Effect
Furthermore, besides cannabis’s analgesic properties, the plant also works as a muscle relaxant by relieving muscle spasms. When one experiences paralysis, they often feel spasticity as a common side effect. Surprisingly, in the late 1890s, Dr. J Reynolds discovered cannabis’s efficacy in the treatment of muscle spasms. In general, cannabis works as a natural anti-spasm substance, and one study found that the combination of CBD and THC in the form of Sativex (a sublingual spray) helped reduce muscle spasms.
Although the study’s participants were MS patients, these results are noteworthy, and they represent potential for the treatment of muscle spasticity due to SCI. Additionally, researchers concluded the following about another study related to muscle spasticity and pain: “…Cannabis extracts have shown effectiveness to relieve some symptoms of the patients with Multiple Sclerosis mainly for pain and spasticity.” Also, there’s a significant amount of anecdotal evidence and stories regarding cannabis’s ability to help SCI patients.
Cannabis’s Ability to Help Treat Sleep Disorders Due to SCI
Besides pain and muscle spasticity, those with SCI often experience problems with sleeping. Specifically, the majority of SCI sufferers experience sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can weaken and damage the body’s immune system. However, one study revealed that cannabis can help improve one’s quality of sleep and the length of it. Then, another study found that the combination of CBD and THC can help those struggling with various sleep issues.
Improved Mobility Due to Cannabidiol Usage
Usually, a SCI is permanent, and it significantly impacts one’s daily mobility. However, one study discovered that CBD improved mobility in rats that had spinal cord injuries. The study’s researchers concluded by stating the following about these findings: “Cannabidiol improved locomotor functional recovery and reduced injury extent suggesting that it could be useful in the treatment of spinal cord lesions.”
Although this study hasn’t been conducted on humans yet, these findings represent the positive impact CBD can have on sensory motor and functioning in SCI patients. It’s also possible that different cannabinoids can help restore functioning, which can dramatically improve the quality of life of SCI patients.
Overall, despite various traditional treatment methods available for SCI like physical therapy, therapeutic massages, acupuncture, cognitive restructuring, and psychotherapy, they aren’t effective for everyone. Oftentimes, certain medications are prescribed for pain management, but many SCI patients have turned away from them due to their slew of side effects and addictive profile. Besides cannabis being a natural treatment method, it can also relieve numerous painful side effects due to SCI while also improving one’s quality of life and ability to be themselves again. Further research should be conducted on the link between cannabis, CBD, THC, and spinal cord injuries, but the research findings that have been released so far are both significant and hopeful.