Does cannabis help with muscular dystrophy symptoms? In this article, we will discuss what muscular dystrophy is, what symptoms are associated with the condition, and whether cannabis is an effective treatment.
If you have been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, you know how serious and disruptive the symptoms are. From muscle pain and stiffness to frequent falls and movement difficulties, muscular dystrophy – a group of inherited diseases that cause progressive muscle weakness and mass loss – produces a wide range of symptoms that worsen over time. While there’s no cure for this debilitating condition, treatments are available to help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.
One potential treatment option that’s been gaining attention in recent years is medical marijuana. Yes, you read that right–cannabis may hold promise for those struggling with muscular dystrophy symptoms. Read on to learn more about this disease and the potential benefits of medical marijuana for MD patients.
What is Muscular Dystrophy?
Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a heterogeneous group of over 160 neuromuscular disorders, each characterized by gradually deteriorating muscle strength. The underlying cause of MD is a genetic mutation that hinders the production of proteins necessary for healthy muscle formation, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy over time.
Muscular Dystrophy Symptoms
Mayo Clinic reports that progressive muscle weakness is the primary sign of muscular dystrophy, with specific symptoms appearing at different ages and muscle groups, depending on the type of disorder. Duchenne-type muscular dystrophy is the most frequent form, affecting boys more than girls, while girls can be carriers and mildly affected. Early childhood onset is typical, with symptoms such as:
- frequent falls
- difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position
- trouble running and jumping
- a waddling gait
- walking on toes
- large calf muscles
- muscle pain and stiffness
- learning disabilities,
- and delayed growth.
Other types of muscular dystrophy
- Myotonic: It is characterized by the inability of muscles to relax after contractions. The first affected areas are usually the facial and neck muscles and individuals with this type often have long faces, drooping eyelids, and swanlike necks.
- Facioscapulohumeral (FSHD): Symptoms typically start in the face, hips, and shoulders. When the arms are raised, the shoulder blades might protrude like wings. The onset usually occurs during adolescence but can start as early as childhood or as late as 50.
- Congenital: This type is apparent at birth or before two years of age and affects both boys and girls. It can progress slowly and cause only mild disability, or it can progress rapidly and lead to severe impairment.
- Limb-girdle: The hip and shoulder muscles are typically the first ones affected. People with this type of muscular dystrophy might experience difficulty lifting the front part of their foot, which can cause frequent tripping. The onset usually begins during childhood or adolescence.
Does Cannabis Have Potential as a Muscular Dystrophy Treatment?
Although cannabis cannot cure MD, there is increasing interest in how the plant can improve the comfort and quality of life for those with these neuromuscular disorders.
Cannabis contains healing compounds called phytocannabinoids. These chemicals act very similarly to the endocannabinoids our cells make. Due to this phenomenon, cannabinoids like THC and CBD can have profound physiological effects on our bodies. When it comes to those living with MD, some of the positive effects cannabis users experience are:
Scientific studies have revealed that cannabis contains cannabinoids that can help reduce inflammation. Among these cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) stands out for its potent anti-inflammatory effects. CBD can effectively combat inflammation and relieve associated MD symptoms by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates various physiological functions, including inflammation.
Pain is a common symptom of MD and can be caused by muscle weakness and spasms. Cannabis is an effective pain reliever in various studies. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Pain, researchers found that cannabis could significantly reduce chronic pain in patients with neuropathic symptoms. In another study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, researchers found that cannabis could help relieve pain in patients with cancer-related symptoms.
Muscle spasms and stiffness are common symptoms of MD. Cannabis has been shown to help relax muscles in various studies. For example, in a 2012 study, researchers found that cannabis could significantly reduce muscle spasms in patients with MS. While more research is needed on MD, this study provides evidence that cannabis may also help relax muscles in MD patients.
Sleep disturbances are common in MD patients and can be caused by pain, discomfort, and muscle spasms. Cannabis has been shown to help improve sleep in various studies. For example, in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers found that cannabis could significantly improve sleep in patients with chronic pain. While more research is needed on MD, this study provides evidence that cannabis may also help improve sleep in MD patients.
One of the potential benefits of medical marijuana for those with muscular dystrophy is improved appetite. Many people with muscular dystrophy experience weight loss and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight due to the disease’s impact on the muscles responsible for digestion. Medical marijuana can help stimulate appetite and reduce nausea, making it easier for individuals to consume the necessary nutrients to maintain a healthy weight.
Improved Muscle Health
Recent research has shown that cannabis may positively impact muscle health. The University of Sydney conducted a study in 2018 that revealed promising results indicating that medical cannabis could help regulate muscle response and strength. Although this study was conducted on animals, it opens up a new avenue of research into the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis for people with neuromuscular conditions. However, more high-quality research is needed to fully understand the extent of cannabis’ therapeutic potential for this patient population.
Get Help with Your Muscular Dystrophy Symptoms
At Pause Pain & Wellness, we have experienced providers specializing in medical cannabis treatment who offer comprehensive consultations to determine if medical marijuana is a safe and appropriate treatment option for muscular dystrophy symptoms.
During your consultation, our providers will review your medical history, current medications, and symptoms to determine if medical marijuana is a viable treatment option for you. Suppose we determine that medical marijuana may be beneficial for your condition; our team can assist you in navigating the application process to obtain a medical marijuana card and guide you through proper dosing and potential side effects. Contact us at 833-940-5060 to schedule a consultation with one of our medical professionals.