After a long and tumultuous day at work, you crash out on your bed, only to wake up with a cramped leg in the middle of the night. It very well may be a small issue, but if you’re not cautious enough, it might prompt mishaps as your capacity to stand is enormously compromised.
A sudden uncontrollable contraction or tightness of muscles, normally known as muscle fit or spasm, is the immediate cause of cramps. It’s agonizing and may keep going for quite a long time. It mostly happens due to long hours of muscle inactivity or too much muscle strain, inadequate stretching before physical activity, strenuous exercise in hot weather, dehydration, and salt imbalance. Sometimes, one may get cramps for no apparent reason.
Prescription drugs are mostly ineffective, and there are no recommended medicines to cure cramps. However, doctors often prescribe muscle relaxants, calcium channel blockers, and pain relievers – each with their share of mild to severe side effects and addiction. Although not problematic in most cases, chronic and acute cramps can significantly reduce quality of life.
Cannabidiol (CBD), which is derived from the hemp plants, a near relative of marijuana, offers relief from spasm with no severe symptoms. As a member of a group of chemicals, known as cannabinoids, CBD is typically found in cannabis plants. Hence, it’s termed phytocannabinoid [‘Phyto’: plant].
How CBD May Help Reduce Spasm and Cramps
Before going into the inner workings of CBD in our body, you must first know a little about the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
ECS is a network of nerves, neuroreceptors, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and fatty acids, which works in tandem with the nervous system to maintain physiological and chemical balance (homeostasis). It also carries out different bodily functions and processes, like sleep, memory, appetite, reproduction, mood, pain, and immune response.
Here’s how CBD oil helps reduce muscle spasm and cramps:
- The neurotransmitter cells in the ECS send out commands to the neuroreceptors through the discharge of a specific chemical compound called endocannabinoids. They produce two known types of endocannabinoids – anandamide (AEA) and arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). CBD is also a member of the same group of chemicals, but derived from a plant (also known as exogenous cannabinoids).
- These endocannabinoids bind with the neuroreceptor cells (CB1 and CB2) to receive and execute the command – the primary job being to restore homeostasis. The body also produces an enzyme to absorb the unused endocannabinoids.
For example, when one feels cold, the ECS informs the body through the nervous system to take some action to restore the balance.
- CB1 receptors are, mainly, located in the brain, and the CB2 receptors are found in the immune system and bone marrow. Some CB2 receptors are also present in the brain.
- CBD interacts with the ECS. It blocks the enzyme that metabolize the endocannabinoids, letting the endocannabinoid perform its functions for a more extended period.
- One of the endocannabinoids produced by the ECS’s neurotransmitters – N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA), aka anandamide, is the body’s naturally produced mood enhancer. As AEA binds with CB1 and CB2 receptors, a bunch of physiological mechanisms kicks in, like appetite stimulation, mood fluctuation, pain management, etc.
- Since CBD retains anandamide concentration for an extended period, it corrects sleep patterns, relieves anxiety and pain, among other benefits.
How Effective is CBD For Spasm and Leg Cramps? :A Scientific Review
Through its interaction with the ECS, CBD reduces muscle spasms by increasing the life of the body’s happy chemical, Serotonin, and modulating the way the central nervous system (CNS) interacts with muscles, making it useful in treating spasticity.
- A study, published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal way back in 2004, was conducted on:
‘Efficacy, safety and tolerability of an orally administered cannabis extract in the treatment of spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study’
Subjects were given a mix of CBD and THC. The researchers concluded:
“…trends in favor of active treatment were seen for spasm frequency, mobility and getting to sleep”.
- In a 2008 study, published in the Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, on:
‘Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain’ by Ethan B Russo. The findings indicated:
“…some degree of acceptance and a desire to continue such treatment…the future for cannabinoid therapeutics appears very bright, indeed.”
- In a 2010 clinical trial, published in the Journal of Neurology Research, on:
‘A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of Sativex, in subjects with symptoms of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis’. The trial demonstrated:
“…Sativex treatment resulted in a significant reduction in treatment-resistant spasticity, in subjects with advanced multiple sclerosis’ and severe spasticity. The response observed within the first 4 weeks of treatment appears to be a useful aid to prediction of responder/non-responder status.”
- Another 2012 study, available with the CMAJ, titled:
‘Smoked cannabis for spasticity in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial’ by Jody Corey-Bloom and team, inferred:
“…we saw a beneficial effect of inhaled cannabis on spasticity among patients receiving insufficient relief from traditional treatments.”
However, the study cautioned that more extensive, long-term studies were needed to confirm its findings and determine whether lower doses can result in beneficial effects with less cognitive impact.
- In 2018, a study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain by Eric P. Baron and team on:
‘Patterns of medicinal cannabis use, strain analysis, and substitution effect among patients with migraine, headache, arthritis, and chronic pain in a medicinal cannabis cohort’, patients were given a mix of CBD and THC.
The study inferred that Delta-limonene and Beta-myrcene present in cannabis exhibit characters that minimize anxiety, promote sleep, and display motor relaxant effects.
The 2018 study also indicated that CBD with THC produces the “opioid-sparing effect” of cannabinoids. This allows patients to reap the benefits of opioid-based drugs while taking fewer opioids. Thus, the CBD component in the CBD-THC mix may resist addiction.
Apart from these effects, CBD has also been known to be an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. This may help reduce the inflammation that was possibly caused by dehydration.
- A 2008 study, published in Biochemical Pharmacology, shows CBD as a “novel anti-inflammatory drug”.
The study points out that CBD has immunosuppressant and immunomodulatory properties. This would mean that it can both suppress the inflammatory responses as well as protect the body from further harm.
Many studies have indicated that CBD acts as a therapeutic agent by restoring balance within the body and stabilizing it, thus reducing anxiety, pain, inflammation, and by working as a muscle relaxant.
How to Use CBD Oil to Prevent Muscle Spasm?
CBD can be ingested in various ways, such as:
The fastest way for CBD to mix with the bloodstream is through vaping, where it directly integrates with the blood through our lungs. Once in the blood, CBD augments the natural balance of the body by reducing pain, inflammation, and anxiety, while acting as a muscle relaxant.
● Sublingual Doses
Another way is by keeping the oil under your tongue or with edibles. In this case, the CBD gets absorbed into the bloodstream through the sublingual glands. This is a popular method used by many users.
● Softgel Capsules
CBD capsules are ingested orally with a gulp of water – like any other capsule. It travels to your stomach, where it breaks down with the help of liver enzymes to enter your bloodstream. In this case, CBD undergoes substantial wastage and loss of dosage.
● Topical Massages
Lotions and gels may also be applied locally on the skin. Massaging the area with CBD oil also brings quick relief that lasts 5 to 6 hours. This is usually the best way to use CBD for muscle cramps and spasms. It does not have to go through the digestive system, where it may undergo the first-pass effect. It also does not have to enter the bloodstream and travel systemically to your brain. The substance interacts directly with the endocannabinoid system in your skin to offer relief.
The Last Word: What Does The Research Say about CBD & Muscle Cramps
In recent times, most research studies about CBD are broadly acknowledged by science, and hence, governments around the globe are beginning to sanction its clinical utilization as well.
CBD is not addictive; neither does it give you a high like marijuana, which contains a psychoactive, brain-altering compound, called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
THC alters a person’s state of mind, by tweaking how a human brain and its nervous system works, which CBD DOES NOT.
CBD extracts, with not more than 0.3% THC, is currently legal in all of the 50 states of the US as it has been found to be safe and therapeutic for a wide range of health issues.
Apart from correcting sleep patterns, relieving anxiety and pain, reducing acne, aiding in cancer treatment, and addressing epilepsy seizures in children, researchers have found quite a few studies that indicate it helps relieve leg cramps and spasm. CBD was even in the news recently for its ability to treat Parkinson’s Disease.
However, no direct indication of its connection with leg cramps has been established so far. We can only hope that there would be more definitive proof of this as well.
For now, we can only recommend that you consult a medical practitioner, preferably one who is certified to treat with medical cannabis before you use CBD oil for leg cramps and spasms.