CBD Effects on Dystonia
Posted on August 20th, 2020
CBD is a product that may bring questions marks for some, and for others, it has become an essential part of their routine. Researchers are looking into its effects on conditions such as motor excitability in certain types of epilepsy and other movement disorders such as spasticity in multiple sclerosis. Patients and clinicians have sensibly asked whether this effect of CBD might extend to the management of dystonia. So, is CBD a safe and effective way to alleviate symptoms in patients with dystonia? Today, let’s explore the effects of CBD on dystonia.
What Is Dystonia?
Dystonia is a very complex rare neurological movement disorder syndrome in which muscles contract involuntarily in repetitive and twisting motions, resulting in uncontrollable muscle spasms and abnormal fixed postures – which can be tremendously painful. Dystonia can affect a single muscle, a group of muscles, or the entire body. It is estimated that 250,000 people in the U.S. have dystonia, and it has also been found to be more prevalent in women. Muscle contractions caused by dystonia range from mild to severe and hamper a patient’s ability to perform everyday tasks.
There are several subtypes of dystonia, – classified according to the area of the body they affect – they include:
- General Dystonia (affects all parts of the body)
- Blepharospasm (Affects the eyes)
- Cervical Dystonia (affects only the neck)
- Oromandibular Dystonia (affects the face, tongue, and jaw)
- Myoclonus Dystonia (affects the torso, neck, and arms)
- Laryngeal Dystonia (affects the larynx)
It’s important to note that dystonia can be task-specific, which means that the symptoms manifest when carrying out particular activities. These activities may include playing a musical instrument, writing, and even typing.
Symptoms of Dystonia
Dystonia manifests itself in different ways depending on the subtype of dystonia and the severity of muscle spasms and contractions. Symptoms associated with dystonia may also progress through different stages and other body parts. However, this is not necessarily the case. The symptoms of dystonia vary from individual to individual; some patients find that their dystonia symptoms diminish or plateau over time. Common symptoms of dystonia include:
- Uncontrollable blinking
- Speech difficulties
- A “dragging leg”
- Muscle cramping and spasms
- Involuntary pulling of the neck
- Abnormal twisting of affected parts
Dystonia symptoms can arise for the first time at any age, regardless of the individual’s gender. These symptoms often:
- Begin in one area
- Occur during specific activities that cause muscle fatigue and constant spontaneous muscle movement such as writing and playing a musical instrument.
- Worsen with fatigue, anxiety, or stress
- Worsen as time passes
Causes of Dystonia
Sadly, the specific cause of dystonia remains a mystery. However, medical researchers believe that dystonia could be caused by damage or a form of abnormality in sections of the brain responsible for movement, such as the basal ganglia. There may also be damage to neurotransmitters (which are responsible for communication between nerves and cells in the brain) or an abnormality in how the patient’s brain processes information and generates commands to prompt movement.
Researchers have also found that dystonia may be inherited (genetic) or from exposure to specific drugs, such as antipsychotics – typically used to treat individuals with schizophrenia and mental illness. Other neurological conditions, such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, has been linked to dystonic symptoms.
Treatment for Dystonia
At the moment, there is no known cure for dystonia, but there are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. These treatments work by hindering nerve communications with muscles. They include:
- Botox injections (Botulinum toxin)
- Medications: Such as Baclofen and Levodopa
- Physical therapy
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS)
- Surgery: Sometimes, surgery can be done to regulate or disable certain nerves or brain sections in people with dystonia to help manage dystonia symptoms
- Muscle relaxers and strong painkillers like opioids have been used to provide some relief for people with dystonia. The pain experienced by people with dystonia can vary depending on the source and the patient’s tolerance.
Unfortunately, the medications and treatment options available for people with dystonia are expensive and have been reported to have many negative side effects, including possible addiction. And with most treatments and medications for dystonia having adverse negative side effects, it is no wonder many are looking for an alternative solution. Besides, some patients experience dystonia symptoms that don’t respond to medications.
CBD and Dystonia
As scientists and researchers continue to make groundbreaking discoveries in the medical field, many are waiting, hoping, and praying for treatments to be developed that might treat and cure dystonia. And CBD may be a potential candidate to help manage the symptoms of dystonia.
Aha, you read that right, researchers are looking into the possible use of CBD for symptoms of dystonia and how CBD can benefit those with dystonia. But could CBD really help with dystonia symptoms? If so, how?
The Effects of CBD on Dystonia
CBD has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Additionally, new research is continually revealing new potential benefits of CBD, including its great potential for those affected by dystonia. The most probable explanation regarding CBD’s effect on dystonia is CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The Endocannabinoid System and Dystonia
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is present throughout the body, including the brain. This system is composed of receptors (CB-1 and CB-2), enzymes, and endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system is highly expressed in the basal ganglia, which is involved in motor function through coordination of movement. Researchers have hypothesized that this is where cannabidiol might exercise its effects on dystonia.
Over the last couple of years, several experimental and clinical studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in motor function. Three lines of evidence support the idea of ECS’s effect on motor function:
- Endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors (CB-1 and CB-2) are abundant in the cerebellum and the basal ganglia – two regions of the brain that play a direct role in the control of motor function.
- Endocannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, and plant-derived cannabinoids (such as CBD and THC) have been seen to produce a wide range of effects on motor activity in lab animals as well as humans.
- It has been noted that several movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, alter the ECS components. This has led researchers to consider the endocannabinoid system as a target for developing new treatments for motor function disorders.
CBD and the ECS
Interestingly, CBD interacts with your body and the brain through the ECS. CBD helps inhibit FAAH (fatty acid amidohydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase), responsible for the breakdown of endocannabinoids in the ECS, which include: anandamide and 2-AG. That means taking CBD may indirectly elevate endocannabinoid levels in your brain, influencing the release of neurotransmitters such as GABA and dopamine. GABA and dopamine play a key role in reducing anxiety.
Although extensive research is still needed in this area, there may be a promising role for CBD in symptom management for dystonia.
How Can I Use CBD?
While CBD does not cure dystonia, it may show promise to help ease symptoms and improve a patient’s quality of life. You can use CBD in several ways. But first, consult with your doctor before introducing CBD into your routine.
You can use CBD for it’s relaxing properties. Symptoms of dystonia can worsen because of fatigue, lack of sleep, and anxiety. Since CBD may help combat these issues, you might be able to use it to decrease the severity of symptoms.
Another way you can use CBD is to help alleviate pain. Numerous studies have suggested CBD’s potency for lowering pain and inflammation. That said, you may be able to use CBD in pain management.
CBD has the potential to offer relief for psychosis and tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Similarly, CBD could demonstrate relief for muscle cramping and tremors associated with dystonia.
Are There Side Effects of Using CBD?
One major concern is whether using CBD has side effects. Several studies have shown that CBD has little to no known side effects. Some side effects may include tiredness, dry mouth, and irritability. Oftentimes these side effects are seen with higher doses. Always start with a low dose and gradually increase until you achieve your desired effects. It’s important to note that CBD can interact with certain medications. So be sure to speak with your doctor before you start your CBD journey.
What Is the Best Type of CBD?
If you’re looking for CBD products to help manage your symptoms, there are several choices at your disposal. However, you may consider a full-spectrum CBD product. The idea is to get a product that has some THC in it. This is because THC also plays a key role in affecting symptoms. Full-spectrum CBD products allow you to benefit from both cannabinoids. And, you don’t have to worry about a “high” from the THC in full-spectrum products. CBD products contain less than 0.3% THC, which is not enough to induce intoxicating effects. For more guidance on CBD products, check out our CBD products page.
Dystonia can have a severe impact on an individual’s quality of life. Not only does it cause constant muscle contortion and spasming, but it can also cause severe neuropathic pain – which can make everyday activities challenging. While further research is needed, CBD may show promise at addressing many of the symptoms of dystonia.