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Almost everyone experiences a muscle spasm at some time – a sudden, painful cramp that happens when muscle fibers contract and twist. Many causes of muscle spasms, such as muscle strain during a workout, are temporary and benign. But for people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or diabetes, these painful episodes can be chronic and debilitating. Now, research reveals that cannabis can relieve the inflammation and pain that trigger the often severe muscle spasms related to these and other chronic conditions.

What Causes Muscle Spasms?

Muscle spasms happen when a muscle anywhere in the body, even in the intestine or heart, contracts involuntarily. The simplest and most obvious cause of muscle spasms is overexertion or muscle fatigue, such as when an athlete works out without stretching first. Dehydration and imbalances in the essential electrolytes potassium, magnesium, and calcium can also cause muscle cramping.

Other temporary causes of muscle spasms include holding certain positions or repeating motions for long periods of time, or putting undue strain on muscles, such as when lifting something heavy. Muscle spasms can also be a side effect of some prescription medications. In these kinds of situations, muscle spasms can often be treated with remedies such as heat, massage, or rest. Restoring the body’s depleted resources of water and essential minerals can also relieve spasms. 

But when muscle spasms are caused by systemic health problems that damage nerves or restrict circulation to the muscles, they don’t respond to simple treatments for temporary muscle stresses. Conditions that can cause debilitating and chronic muscle spasms include multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, and cerebral palsy. Injuries to the back and neck can also lead to spasms, and so can diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Even obesity can contribute to muscle spasms because of excess pressure on the joints and muscles.

Treatments for chronic muscle spasms can include muscle relaxants such as Valium, drugs like Levodopa that target brain chemistry, and even Botox, which effectively freezes a muscle to stop it from spasming. But these medications can have numerous side effects like drowsiness, nausea, and chest pain, and they aren’t always effective. Now, though, studies indicate that the cannabis compounds THC and CBD may be able to relieve muscle spasms associated with chronic health conditions without the side effects of medications.

How Can Cannabis Help Muscle Spasms?

Much of the research on the use of cannabis to relieve muscle spasms has focused on multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease that can cause abnormal muscle movement and spasms. These studies reveal that two cannabis compounds, THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), and CBD (cannabidiol) are able to reduce the body’s response to inflammation, which causes muscle cramping. 

These two compounds, particularly THC, also activate receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which responds both to natural cannabinoids produced by the body and to those in cannabis. These receptors play a major role in promoting immune responses, fighting inflammation, and reducing pain signals to the brain. For those reasons, cannabis can help to relieve many of the symptoms of chronic diseases that affect muscles and nerves, including muscle spasms.

Severe and debilitating muscle spasms are a qualifying condition for Medical Cannabis in Utah. To get a Medical Cannabis card, consult a healthcare provider who can certify your qualifying condition and enter you in the state’s user database. Then, you can visit the Utah Department of Health website to complete the application and pay the fee. It may take up to two weeks to receive your card. For more information, schedule an appointment with us today.

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