Can CBD be helpful treatment for cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a condition brought on by damage to an infant’s brain that results in serious implications for the rest of the patient’s life. If you have cerebral palsy, chances are your life will be significantly more difficult than the average person’s. It affects your movement and coordination, which of course are vital to almost everything people do. There is currently no known cure, so treatments look at ways in which people’s lives can be improved.
Cerebral palsy has a host of different symptoms, and recently, a lot of research has suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) may be of benefit in helping control some of the main ones.
In fact, a lot of people affected by cerebral palsy have started to use CBD-based treatments and are reporting a big benefit. If you, or someone you care about, is afflicted by cerebral palsy and are curious as to how CBD may help, then this article is for you. We will look at what cerebral palsy is, what some of the traditional treatments, and how CBD could potentially help manage some symptoms. Please read on for more information.
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is the name used to cover several lifelong neurological conditions. These conditions affect coordination and movement and are caused before, during, or shortly after birth by a problem with the brain. There are four different types of cerebral palsy. These are:
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – This causes coordination and balance problems, often leading to shaky movement, and occasionally, tremors.
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy – Muscle tone is affected, switching between floppiness and stiffness. This causes uncontrolled and involuntary spasms.
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy – Movement is difficult as it causes muscles to feel tight and stiff. Patients will have a reduced range of possible movements.
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy – This is a combination of any of the above types of cerebral palsy.
If an infant has cerebral palsy, it is often not diagnosed until after two or three years of age, because the symptoms are not usually immediately obvious. The most common symptoms include:
- Weak arms or legs.
- Uncontrolled and random movements.
- Jerky, clumsy, or fidgety movements.
- Abnormal body structure (“floppy” or stiff).
- A delay in reaching expected development milestones (examples include not being able to sit unassisted by eight months, or not walking by 18 months).
- Walking on tiptoes.
There can be significant variation in the symptom severity from case to case. It can also affect the whole body or only part of it, such as the legs or just one side. Cerebral palsy can also lead to a range of other developmental issues, including:
- Speaking and communication problems.
- Drooling, feeding and swallowing difficulties.
- Problems with vision.
- Learning disabilities (roughly 50% of children with cerebral palsy also have a learning disability).
- Fits or seizures.
- Difficulty controlling the bladder.
Cerebral palsy results from either the brain not developing normally or being damaged. The most common causes are believed to be:
- The mother catching an infection while pregnant, such as chickenpox or rubella.
- Bleeding within a baby’s brain.
- Premature or difficult birth.
- Limited or interrupted oxygen supply to the brain during pregnancy, birth, or shortly after.
- Changes in genes affecting brain development.
What are the traditional treatments for cerebral palsy?
As a lifelong condition with no currently known cure, treatments are aimed at helping those with cerebral palsy experience as normal and independent a life as possible. Some of the treatments traditionally employed are:
- Physiotherapy – This is one of the most important cerebral palsy treatments. Techniques such as exercises and stretches are used to help maintain physical abilities and improve movement by strengthening muscles.
- Occupational therapy – A therapist helps to identify and solve problems that occur when carrying out everyday tasks. Useful to boost independence and self-esteem.
- Speech therapy – Used to help those who suffer from speech, communication, and swallowing difficulties. It may involve help with practicing speech or may teach people an alternative communication method like sign language. It also can include swallowing techniques and exercises to help with feeding problems.
- Medication – Medicines can be used to combat some of the different difficulties that arise from cerebral palsy. Medication may be taken to help muscle stiffness, seizures, drooling and other symptoms.
- Surgery – In some cases, surgery may be used to help with certain issues, including restoring movements restricted by a tight muscle, correcting spine curvature, improving bladder control and making walking easier.
How can CBD help with cerebral palsy?
CBD is known to work on the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The endocannabinoid system has been shown to be involved with a number of different physiological processes, such as immune system regulation, pain sensation, and inflammation.
Because CBD works upon a system within our bodies that is involved in a multitude of different processes, research has looked at how CBD could be used to treat problems related to these various physiological processes. A number of symptoms of cerebral palsy are linked to the endocannabinoid system, meaning that CBD could potentially be an effective treatment in helping alleviate them.
The main symptoms that CBD could help with are:
- Muscle spasms – Research has shown that cannabis can be helpful in reducing muscle spasms. Indeed, one of the more commonly prescribed drugs for multiple sclerosis is Sativex, which is a synthetic form of cannabis. Involuntary muscle spasms are a common symptom of cerebral palsy, thus CBD could be of benefit here.
- Pain – Cerebral palsy can often lead to acute or chronic pain in the muscles or joints. Cannabis has been used as a pain relief therapy for thousands of years and is well-known for its analgesic properties. CBD could help relieve this symptom of cerebral palsy.
- Seizures – 35-50% of children with cerebral palsy also develop seizure disorders. There is much evidence that cannabis might be an effective treatment for epilepsy. CBD is often used to help keep seizures at bay, and it is speculated that those with cerebral palsy may be able to use it for the same reason.
It certainly seems that CBD could be helpful in acting against some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. It is also important to point out that, although CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, it will not give you the “high” sensation that recreational users seek.
This “stoned” feeling comes from cannabis’ other main active ingredient, THC. CBD-based treatments typically contain between 0-0.3% THC, and CBD actually actively works against THC’s psychoactive effects; in other words, users of CBD treatments will not get “high.”
Always buy CBD products from a reputable company who employs a third party laboratory to quality test their products to ensure this is the case.
Are there studies of the effectiveness of CBD?
Studies into CBD’s effectiveness as a treatment against cerebral palsy are currently limited due to cannabis’ illegal status, but what research has been carried out has had positive indications. Further research is also being conducted as we speak. Here are some details of the studies conducted so far:
- A study carried out by Wolfson Medical Center examined the effectiveness of different cannabis oils in improving the condition of children with cerebral palsy. The findings were overwhelmingly positive, with the oils seeming to reduce symptoms and improve the children’s motor skills, sleep quality, bowel movements, and overall mood.
- The first study to look at the effects of marijuana for pain relief in patients with cerebral palsy was carried out by Hirsh et al. and published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in 2011. They asked cerebral palsy patients what medication they used for pain relief, and how effective they found it to be. The patients that used cannabis self-rated it as the most helpful pain treatment out of any used. This exciting result suggests cannabis-based treatments could prove effective pain relief for those with cerebral palsy, and further research should investigate this more.
- A case study published in Reviews in Neurological Diseases in 2007 investigated the effectiveness of cannabis as an antiepileptic. Mortati et al. looked at the case of a 45-year-old man who suffered from cerebral palsy and epilepsy. They observed that he showed a marked improvement with the use of cannabis. They concluded this supports the anecdotal data suggesting cannabis could be a beneficial treatment for patients who suffer from seizures.
Final thoughts on CBD Oil for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is an incredibly difficult condition that has long-lasting effects for the entirety of a sufferer’s life. Basic everyday tasks such as going to the toilet and walking can be a real struggle, and in some cases, people with the condition will require 24-hour care for the rest of their lives.
There is no known cure for this debilitating disorder, and treatment focuses on helping those diagnosed live as normal a life as possible, with a particular emphasis on different therapies. Often, patients will be simultaneously utilizing several different options; for example, taking medication and also attending physiotherapy and speech therapy.
With this in mind, CBD oil as a potential therapy option for cerebral palsy is becoming more appealing to many patients. The scientific research suggests it could be beneficial in helping alleviate some of the most serious symptoms. CBD oil for cerebral palsy is by no means a guaranteed treatment or cure, but as we’ve mentioned, its effects seem to be positive on the condition based on the limited research that has been done.
Lastly, CBD oil is incredibly simple and easy to use, even for children. All that is required is to include an edible or oil drops in your morning routine, and you could start to see a real benefit in your life. It shouldn’t be used as a replacement for other treatments, but if used in tandem, CBD could have the potential to make the lives of those with cerebral palsy better.