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Dyskinetic and Spastic Movement Disorders and Medical Marijuana

The cannabis plant contains cannabinoids that interact with central nervous system receptors to produce biological effects and may improve symptoms of disease in a range of movement disorders. Research shows cases of those with dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders that have seen marked improvements in their disorder due to the consumption of cannabis for treatment. Dystonia and cannabis are often studied for dystonia due to cerebral palsy and spasticity and dystonia due to genetic neurodegenerative diseases.

What are dyskinetic movements?

Dyskinetic movements often occur alongside spasticity and can be:
• Twisting and repetitive movements – known as dystonia
• Slow, ‘stormy’ movements – known as athetosis
• Dance-like irregular, unpredictable movements – known as chorea.

What are spastic movements?

Spasticity is increased muscle contractions causing stiffness or tightness of the muscles that may interfere with movement, speech and walking. It’s usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement. It may result from spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen, severe head injury and metabolic diseases such as Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS).

Dystonia can be present in one part of the body, known as focal dystonia, or throughout the whole body, known as generalized dystonia. Focal dystonia may only occur during a movement or task. Generalized dystonia refers to dystonic movement that affects both legs and at least one arm, or the trunk in combination with at least one arm or leg. This type of dystonia can affect mobility as well as cause speech and swallowing difficulties.

Athetosis is characterized by slow, continuous, involuntary, writhing movements that happen at rest and can become worse by attempts to move. People with athetosis experience fluctuations in muscle tone – with muscle tone alternating between being floppy and extremely variable motion.

Chorea is characterized by involuntary movements that are abrupt, brief, irregular and unpredictable. People with mild chorea may appear fidgety or clumsy, while people with more severe choreiform movements may display wild, violent, and larger movements. Movements can affect various body parts and interfere with movement, speech and swallowing.

Links

Cannabis in the Treatment of Dystonia, Dyskinesias, and Tics.

The American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics

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Systematic review: Efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected neurologic disorders

American Academy of Neurology

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Treatment of Tourette Syndrome with Cannabinoids

Behavioural Neurology

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Evidence for the use of “medical marijuana” in psychiatric and neurologic disorders

Mental Health Clinician

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