Spinal Cord Injury
Up to 450,000 people in the United States live with spinal cord injury (SCI), according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Around 11,000 cases of SCI occur each year in the U.S. Most of the cases are due to vertebral column trauma, which affects how the spinal cord sends and receives messages to the body’s systems from the brain and controls motor, autonomic and sensory function below the level of injury. With statistics like this, it’s no wonder patients are turning to treatments like medical marijuana for spinal cord injury due to the extreme pain it puts them in.
WHAT IS A SPINAL CORD INJURY?
A spinal cord injury results in damage to your spinal cord. It’s a severe form of physical trauma, which can have a significant and lasting impact on most aspects of your everyday life, including your physical abilities and mental wellbeing.
Your spinal cord is made up of nerves and tissues your spine vertebrae contains and protects. Your vertebrae are bones stacked upon each other comprising your spine. Your spine has multiple nerves and extends from the base of your brain all the way down to your buttocks.
Your spinal cord sends messages to your brain. Because of these spinal cord messages, you’re able to move your limbs and perceive pain.
If your spinal cord sustains trauma, many of these signals — or all of them — can’t get through, resulting in a total or complete loss of mobility and sensation below the injury. If you have a spinal cord injury near your neck, it can cause paralysis throughout a more significant area of your body than an injury in your lower back area.
SYMPTOMS OF SPINAL CORD INJURY
No matter what type of spinal cord injury you have, you may experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Loss of sensation, including being able to feel cold, heat and touch
- Loss of movement
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Changes in fertility, sexual sensitivity and sexual function
- Exaggerated reflex spasms or activities
- Intense stinging sensation or pain caused by nerve fiber damage in your spinal cord
- Difficulty coughing, breathing or clearing out lung secretions
- Emergency symptoms of SCI after a trauma or accident may include:
- Incoordination, weakness or paralysis in any area of your body
- Pressure in your head, neck or back or intense back pain
- Difficulty walking and balancing
- Tingling, numbness or loss of sensation in your fingers, hands, toes or feet
- Injury-related impaired breathing
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- A twisted or oddly positioned back or neck
HOW MEDICAL MARIJUANA HELPS WITH SPINAL CORD INJURY
After a trauma, various pathological events can add to the spread of damage to your spinal cord, further provoking neurological losses.
But, administering medical marijuana’s cannabinoids shortly after your injury has been shown to delay degeneration and neuronal atrophy and reduce proinflammatory cytokines. This preserves the white matter surrounding the area injured and protects the myelin sheath surrounding the cord.
There are multiple benefits of marijuana for spinal cord injury including:
- It’s well-tolerated and safe.
- It doesn’t suppress your breathing like opioid medications.
- It doesn’t cause constipation.
- You can’t overdose like with other prescription medications.