Muscle spasms are an involuntary and often extremely painful contraction of a muscle. They tend to strike suddenly and resolve quickly. However, in some cases these painful spasms can leave the afflicted individual immobile. Those who suffer from chronic muscle spasms can find themselves out of commission, unable to live a normal, full life.
A variety of things—from dehydration or muscle fatigue to injuries or more serious underlying issues such as multiple sclerosis or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)—can cause painful muscle spasms. Whatever their cause, muscle spasms can be frightening and debilitating. Thankfully, many patients with muscle spasms are now finding relief and improved function with the use of cannabis.
Emilie, a 24-year-old dog walker from San Rafael, CA, says that cannabis has helped immensely with her muscle spasms and associated pain. The spasms, which occur mostly in her neck, started when Emilie got into a bike accident in the fifth grade. Her neck never really recovered, and the pain seemed to worsen over time.
“I just got increasingly worse, and when I was stressed and studying, my parents could literally see this huge knot on my back,” she says.
Emilie’s first muscle spasm was a frightening experience. “I literally could not move,” she recalls. “I couldn’t get out of bed… and I was terrified I had some kind of crazy nerve damage.” With pain so intense, these frequent spasms left Emilie unable to do much of anything.
Fortunately, Emilie has found a solution that reduces her pain and helps her live her life uninterrupted. That solution is cannabis-infused transdermal patches. “These work better than opiates work for this kind of pain,” she says. “Right now, I'm just using my patches, and I'm able to move around. I’m able to drive and look around, and it's not painful. It actually makes it so I can function and do day-to-day things without being miserable.”
Sergio, a 27-year-old custodian from Eugene, OR, has also found success using cannabis to ease his muscle spasms. Sergio traces his spasms back to a Xanax prescription a doctor prescribed when he was going through a hard time.
“I remember going to work on [the Xanax] for a while, and I couldn't really talk. ... I didn't like my life as it was,” he says. The side effects made Sergio want to stop taking the benzodiazepines he’d been prescribed. So one day he stopped taking the medication cold turkey.
Within a month, he started to experience muscle spasms, and they continue to this day. “I feel like I've been stabbed in the head,” Sergio says to describe his spasms. Doctors suggested more Xanax to treat the muscle spasms. However, Sergio didn’t want to go back on the benzos. Instead, he decided to explore cannabis as a medical option.
Now, Sergio uses topical cannabidiol (CBD) rubs to help with his painful spasms. He says that he’s better able to function, although some pain remains. “My pain isn't gone, but I'm alive,” he says. “I go to work. I don't feel too cloudy in my head.”
While a pain-free experience would be ideal, Sergio is grateful for what cannabis brings into his life, saying, “Compared to being on some of the medications that [the doctors] had me on, it's a lot easier to function. … [Cannabis] really helps me get through the day.”
Sergio and Emilie aren’t alone in using cannabis for their muscle spasms. While the mechanism isn’t well understood, a number of cannabis patients have reported that cannabis eases their muscle spasms.
If you suffer from muscle spasms and think cannabis might be right for you, the best first step is to talk to a doctor. You can consult with one of HelloMD’s knowledgeable doctors; it's 100% online, private and easy.
Whether you have a medical marijuana card or live in a state where you can purchase through recreational means, there are many cannabis options on the market today. Cannabis can help muscle spasms with its many forms of administration. So, in some ways, this is about finding the best options for you.
That said, many patients suffering from muscle spasms find that transdermal patches—which deliver cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream—along with topical cannabis such as rubs, lotions and balms—which deliver localized relief—are most effective. Since transdermal patches delivers cannabis slowly over a period of time that can span up to eight hours, they’re not likely to get you (too) high. Meanwhile, cannabis-infused topicals simply target the affected area, so they won’t make you high.
Whatever you try, remember that cannabis can affect people differently, so you may need to try a few options before you find the right one for you.
Stay tuned for the next article in our Cannabis for Newbies series, where we’ll give tips on how to research and find the right cannabis options for your needs.
Photo credit: Jasper Graetsch