In 2017, an estimated 245,000 to 353,000 Americans were living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). This is according to SpinalCord.com, which has revealed on its website how half of all SCI occur among people between the ages of 16 and 30, with automobile accidents being the leading cause of SCIs.
This type of injury usually compresses or crushes the spinal cord after being impacted by force. The outcome may present a range of symptoms, including spasticity and chronic pain. The good news is that cannabis boasts neuroprotective properties that could make a major difference to an SCI patient’s life.
Since the 1970s, cannabis studies have been conducted to determine the suitability and efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for patients with spinal cord injury. Although further research is needed to determine how the plant may relieve undesirable symptoms, science tells us that cannabis could enhance the quality of life and reduce pain/discomfort caused by an SCI.
What are the causes and symptoms of spinal cord injury (SCI)?
Someone who endures a spinal cord injury will usually experience chronic pain, accompanied by possible insomnia, blood clots, anxiety, depression, as well as bladder and bowel problems.
Doctors will diagnose this type of injury as either “complete” or “incomplete.” The first classification refers to people with complete loss of function below the point of injury, whereas the second classification refers to an incomplete loss of function with differing degrees of damage among patients.
An SCI may occur if the spine experiences trauma of some kind. Damage to disc material, ligaments, and bone fragments may also affect the spine. Motor functions are directly affected by spine injuries, making the time window between impact and treatment incredibly important.
Using cannabis to treat spinal cord injury
When a person has a spinal cord injury, they will experience neuropathic pain, due to sensory or spinal nerve damage. Thankfully, cannabis has been proven as an effective natural treatment for pain.
“Cannabis can produce moderate analgesia in patients with neuropathic pain,” say researchers from a study on using cannabis for neuropathic pain.
Aside from neuropathic pain, decreased motor function is a common side effect of SCI. Interestingly, rats that were treated with cannabidiol for cryogenic spinal cord injury experienced major improvement in motor functions, based on the findings of one study. Another study reported how people with SCI’s experienced a reduction in spasticity with cannabis use.
Scientific discoveries like this are helping people to get educated on the green plant and its painkilling properties. Cannabinoid-based medications could soon replace traditional types of painkillers, which possess addictive qualities that may lead to fatal overdose. Unlike opioid painkillers, cannabis is non-addictive.
While further research is required to determine the absolute efficacy of using cannabis to treat spinal cord injury, other areas of research offer proof that cannabis can potentially restore nerve function and new cell growth. What remains to be unknown, however, is the timeframe patients can expect to wait for cannabis-based SCI treatments.