Dystonia literally means “poor stretching” (although Liddell and Scott tell me it could also mean a “lamentable condition,” which is true enough, if vague for a medical term). It is a neurological disorder characterized by prolonged, sometimes painful, contractions that contort the limbs, neck, face, even the vocal cords.
You remember that Donald Trump bit where he mocks the disabled reporter? That’s dystonia.
Dystonia is the third most common motor disorder, after Parkinson’s disease and tremor, and it affects some 300,000 people in North America. It can appear on its own or as a symptom of Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, or other neurological diseases.
Cannabis has shown to have some positive effect on spasms and ticks, but the literature directly addressing dystonia is small, and it is limited to case reports (like this positive one) and preclinical studies (like this negative one)—which means that any findings carry no statistical weight.
A 2015 review of cannabis research for a variety of motor impediments, while optimistic in general, concludes that as far as dystonia is concerned: “benefit was not established beyond individual patients.” Nevertheless, it holds out hope that cannabis might “possibly” have a role in treatment.
Related Story: Here is Clinical Evidence That Marijuana Fights Epilepsy
Despite its thumbs down assessment, the report is an excellent primer for the whole branch of research. It deals directly with the complexity of the endocannabinoid system in a way that makes explicable researchers’ often contradictory findings——though, of course, without resolving them either.