How Cannabis Helps with Muscle Spasms

Man with Back Pain
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Knees weak, arms are sweaty. Searing pain. Nope, it's not an Eminem song. It's a muscle spasm. It hurts ? whether it lasts only momentarily or long-term. Cannabis can help with those surging doses of cramps, whatever the cause.

Muscle Spasms

Often painful and always inconvenient, muscle spasms happen when a muscle tightens and contracts involuntarily. Also known as cramps or Charlie horses, muscle contractions can do more than hinder someone's style; spasms can range from sudden tight discomfort to excruciatingly painful and uncontrollable contractions. Muscle spasms can happen throughout the body, but commonly happen in the legs, and can last anywhere from a few moments to several minutes; extreme cases can last for hours.

Causes of spasms vary. Some people experience them after extensive periods of labor or dehydration. Ask any ballerina if they've heard of that perilous foot cramp and expect a full log of experience in return. Factors for spasms also have to do with age and diet, as older or overweight people tend to experience them more frequently. Many people have these spasms due to serious medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, which affects nearly 2 million Americans with about 200 new cases diagnosed each week.

When it comes to MS, muscle spasms are easily triggered. Everything from sudden movements to humidity to tightly worn clothing to temperature changes can stimulate an involuntary response.

Symptoms, other than extreme pain, can lead to disrupted motor function. Soft tissue shortening, which can lead to frozen contractures in joints, is a major consequence of untreated muscle spasms. Areas like shoulders, elbows, ankles, knees, and hips can be heavily affected.


About 90% of treatment includes prescription medications, plus physical therapy. Prescription medications have very limiting potential side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, headache, chest pain, depression, rash, shortness of breath, and dry mouth. According to, muscle injuries are often prescribed medicine to relieve the spasm, taken with opiates for the chronic pain that results from the injury.

Opiates, however, are a quick fix – best for short-term pain relief. It's an intense dose of relief. When it comes to long-term, chronic pain, which many muscle spasms produce, opiates are not appropriate. Additionally, opiate addiction is a rising epidemic, affecting over 2 million Americans each year.

Due to increased awareness of the concerns regarding prescription drugs, many are turning to natural relief for their pain. While diet, combined with an increase in stretching and massages, can have a positive effect, another treatment is raising eyebrows for its effectiveness: cannabis offers herbal relief for muscle spasms of every kind.


Marijuana is an effective source of treatment for muscle spasms. Several states, including those that have legalized cannabis, have welcomed muscle spasms into the approved condition list for medical marijuana, per a physician's recommendation.

One of the main benefits of cannabis is that it reduces inflammation. Inflammation is one of several direct causes of muscle spasms. Compounds found within cannabis, including CBD and THC, are known to deactivate inflammatory proteins within the body.

Pain relief is another significant benefit of marijuana; when CBD and THC enter into the body via marijuana, they bind to elements within the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of cell receptors. These cell receptors impact feelings of pain (stemming from inflammation); when CBD and THC bind to them, they release an anti-inflammatory response.

MS, which causes muscle spasms, has a lot to do with damage to nerve fibers in the body involving inflammation.

Studies done on MS have shown that when given oral cannabis extracts, patients suffering from MS have seen improvement in their muscle cramps at twice the rate of a placebo. In a study of 500 subjects, more than half resulted in a 20% improvement of muscle spasticity after a month of cannabis treatment.

Cannabis as Treatment

CBD Lotion Topicals
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Marijuana used in the medical context of helping muscle spasms can come in various forms. Cannabis can be effectual when smoked, applied topically, or eaten in an infused edible.

Topicals are usually made with higher concentrations of CBD and are applied topically to the skin. They are considered highly effective for spasms, as they numb the localized area and can influence the muscle directly. This is a very targeted approach and can lead to fast-acting results. Applying the topical ? whether that's a cream, lotion, salve, or oil ? with massage-like motions and small amounts of stretching can help the spasm be relieved faster.

More than 300 strains of indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, and hybrid strains are recommended for muscle spasm treatment. Each type of cannabis strain offers something a little different; indicas are known to be calming, sativas are energizing, and hybrids can be a combination of both. Some popular strains include Head Cheese, The Hog, Snoop Dogg, and Green Candy.

Cannabis for MS

Since MS is an immune-related disease, certain strains of cannabis can be more specifically helpful with its correlating symptoms. CBD is particularly viable for MS patients, since it takes many forms, is widely accepted (thanks to being non-psychoactive), and is easily accessible. Popular strains for MS muscle spasm relief include Death Bubba, Dairy Queen, Cream Caramel, Gumbo, Holland's Hope, and more. A licensed medical marijuana doctor can provide more individualized care when searching for a perfect match, and budtenders often have several suggestions.

Muscle spasms happen to the best of us. We don't all suffer from debilitating diseases, but when cramps arise, it can certainly feel like a moment of crisis. Whether it's due to age, lifestyle, dehydration, or health concerns, cannabis offers a natural relief to some of life's most unfair, cringy moments. Ease the tension with some herbal holistic care, fighting inflammation one topical, joint, brownie, or vaporizer at a time.