As one of the most chronic degenerative diseases known to man, multiple sclerosis (MS) is an extremely painful condition that causes weakening of the muscles, inflammation, and loss of motor coordination. Over time, MS patients have shown to become permanently disabled and in rare instances can prove fatal.
Over 200 people every week are diagnosed with MS, and those that live with it know all too well just how debilitating this disease can be. The pain some people endure who suffer from MS can become unbearable and range from a burning and aching feeling to the “pins and needles” that many people with this disease experience. Spasticity is another common occurrence, as wellas extremely painful muscle spasms and cramps. Back and musculoskeletal pain is also very familiar with MS patients, as is depression, fatigue, and fear. Many that are diagnosed with MS also experience incontinence on an all-too-regular basis.
Treating symptoms of MS with medical marijuana has been shown time and time again in numerous studies to help reduce painful symptoms associated with the disease and is providing relief to thousands who live in places where medical cannabis is an option. It seems that inhaling cannabis is the way to go when it comes to pain management, as a 2008 report from researchers at the University of California San Diego highlighted that inhaling cannabis significantly reduced the pain and spasticity amongst MS patients. In another study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association showed very similar results and that “smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in symptom and pain reduction in patients with treatment resistant spasticity.”
It should come as no surprise then that almost one in every two patients with MS are using medical cannabis to find the relief they need. Why does marijuana work so well for multiple sclerosis? The following reasons highlight the reasons more than half the people diagnosed with MS are using cannabis for the relief they so desperately need.
The principal characteristic of MS is inflammation of neural tissue. MS causes the body’s immune cells to attack the central nervous system, which in turn leads to inflammation of the myelin sheaths that encompass the nerves in the spinal column and brain. This inflammation leads to permanent damage that ends up causing a host of other symptoms including muscle spasms, weakening of the muscles, and loss of motor control. Used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory, marijuana is excellent in reducing inflammation in those who suffer from MS.
- Pain Relief
For patients with MS, pain is something that is an extremely familiar occurrence. It has been documented that between 50-70% of all MS patients experience pain that ranges from moderate to severe. In some cases pain is so severe that it can become debilitating. Cannabis has been shown to help greatly reduce this pain and has been providing patients with MS relief for years. One patient survey conducted on 112 patients with MS from the US and UK showed an overwhelming majority expressing a decrease in pain after smoking marijuana. It helps by reducing both inflammation and the pain caused by muscle spasms.
- Reduces the Severity of Muscle Spasms
Marijuana works as an antispasmodic and has shown great results when used to help with both the severity and frequency of hindering muscle spasms. An upwards of 80% of MS patients experience muscle spasms which cause both pain and spasticity. In 2005, a random, double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study was conducted on 50 patients with MS that compared cannabis to a placebo when treating muscle spasms. Of the 50 patients tested, 37 of them reported improvements in the progress and severity of their muscle spasms.
- Helps with Abdominal Issues
Other side effects of MS can be found in the gastrointestinal tract. It’s not uncommon for MS patients to experience abdominal pain, constipation, and incontinence. Not only are these symptoms painful, but can prove to be extremely embarrassing. Amongst patients that have used cannabis for MS relief, 51-60% of a patient survey reported that the urge to defecate was reduced, 44% described a reduction in incontinence, and 30% stated that it helped with constipation. It is believed this is the effect of cannabinoids on the CB-1 receptors in the nervous system that control gut function.
Marijuana continues to show to be helpful for a myriad of medical conditions, multiple sclerosis obviously included. As more research is conducted and marijuana becomes more and more available to patients worldwide, hopefully one day all sufferers of MS will have the option to medicate with this proven medical miracle.