The spinal cord, along with the brain, is one of the two primary structures that make up the central nervous system (CNS). It is vital to human health and normal function. Any spinal cord injury (SCI) may result in a tremendous loss to the patient’s quality of life. They may also suffer from permanent pain, weakness, and changes in sensation both at the site of the injury and to any part of the body connected to the spinal cord. Severe SCI’s may even result in partial or total paralysis. For many years, it was considered medically impossible to recover from a serious SCI. However, recent developments in medicine and surgery have changed that outlook. There is also a growing body of research that shows how utilizing CBD for spinal cord injuries can help treat the symptoms associated with the condition.
Spinal Cord Injuries: Causes
The spinal cord is a long tube that extends from the brain down the length of the back. It is composed of neurons, the cells that make up the nervous system. Furthermore, it is crucial in two human functions: movement (the motor cortex) and sensing (the sensory cortex). It is essentially a thick power cord that carries electrical signals up and down the body. Serious damage to the spinal cord will disrupt these signals and potentially cause catastrophic symptoms.
There are almost 13,000 people a year who survive a spinal cord injury (SCI). The ten most common causes of SCI’s, in order from most common to least common, are as follows:
- Car accidents
- Gunshot-related injuries
- Injuries from diving
- Motorcycle accidents
- Falling objects (such as rocks or icicles)
- Surgical complications
- Pedestrians being struck by cars
- Accidents on bicycles
- Physical assault by another person
The vast majority of these are preventable as they occur most frequently due to risk-taking behavior or dangerous activities. As a result, over 80% of SCI’s are suffered by men, most of which are younger men. This is because younger men, on the whole, engage in more risky behavior than any other segment of the population.
What Are the Different Types of Spinal Cord Injuries?
SCI’s can be divided into two basic categories: traumatic and non-traumatic. Traumatic injuries occur when an event or attack causes sudden damage to the spinal cord, such as an accident or physical attack. These types of SCI’s are caused by mechanical forces. Nontraumatic injuries are the result of some kind of illness or condition that has caused damage over time, such as a tumor or bone disease that causes deterioration. Nontraumatic SCI’s can also be caused by a lack of blood flow, also known as ischemia.
SCI’s are also classified according to the level of motor and/or sensory impairment they have on the patient. There is a specific index, known as The International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI), which breaks down as follows:
- Complete injury (Grade A). There is no sensory and/or motor function at all.
- Incomplete sensory (Grade B). The areas of the body below the site of injury have retained their sensory but not their motor functions.
- Incomplete motor (Grade C). Motor functions below the site of injury have been retained and more than 50% of the muscles are functioning.
- Incomplete motor (Grade D). Motor functions are the same as Grade C except that less than 50% of the muscles are functioning properly.
- Normal (Grade E). No current impairment to sensory and/or motor functions, though they did exist in the past.
The complete loss of motor function is also known as paralysis. If the paralysis affects all four limbs, it is known as quadriplegia. If it affects only the lower limbs, it is known as paraplegia.
What Happens if Your Spinal Cord is Damaged?
Depending on the severity of the injury and where it has occurred, the symptoms will vary tremendously. They may include numbness, tingling pain, and even paralysis. Furthermore, the type of pain associated with an SCI, also known as neuropathic pain, is distinct from other types of pain. It consists of a tingling and stinging sensation that is sometimes described as like having pins and needles stabbing the patient’s muscles. It is particularly difficult to treat and traditional medications can have numerous side effects. If there is a burning and/or tingling sensation in the skin of the patient, this is a specific type of neuropathic pain known as paraesthesia.
Furthermore, the sensory functions of the spinal cord can be impaired in various types of SCI’s. Central cord syndrome (CCS), for example, results in weakness only in the arms and not in the legs. This condition is most commonly caused by car accidents or falls. Below the site of injury, there is actually a decrease in the ability to sense not only pain but temperature and pressure as well.
Anterior spinal cord syndrome, on the other hand, is caused by a loss of blood flow (ischemia) in the anterior spinal artery. It results in the loss of motor function as well as the ability to sense pain and temperature below the site of injury. On the other hand, the sense of touch and spatial sense (also known as proprioception) are entirely preserved.
There are a multitude of symptoms and impairments that may result from an SCI. Because the spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and is so crucial to overall function in the human body, the location of the SCI is what governs the symptoms that the patient will exhibit.
CBD for Spinal Cord Injuries: Treatment Options
There are various traditional treatment options for SCI’s. Aside from surgery, the two most common are painkillers and corticosteroids. The painkillers used are frequently opioids which carry an array of side effects that are incredibly dangerous. They may also cause addiction and even death in cases of an overdose. Neurontin (also known as a GABA analog) is a painkiller that specifically treats neuropathic pain. It does not carry the potential for addiction like opioids.
Corticosteroids are also administered to decrease inflammation at the site of injury. They are usually given immediately after an acute SCI to decrease permanent tissue damage, thereby decreasing the risk of paralysis. However, they are not as useful in treating the more chronic symptoms that will continue following the immediate aftermath of the SCI in question.
CBD for spinal cord injuries is an innovative new supplement that can be incredibly useful in managing these symptoms. It is a natural and safe extract from the cannabis plant. However, it is not intoxicating as it has no psycho-activity. It is extremely effective in treating both conventional and neuropathic pain. It is not addictive and it carries absolutely no risk of overdose. This is in stark contrast to opioid painkillers which can be extremely damaging to a patient’s overall health.
Furthermore, CBD is also effective in decreasing inflammation. It can be used on a regular basis; it does not have to only be administered immediately following an SCI. In fact, CBD for spinal cord injuries is best when used as a supplement and part of a daily health regimen. Because it is so well tolerated in human metabolism, it can be used in addition to the traditional medications that are used to treat SCI’s. It is best to do so under the supervision of your health care practitioner to ensure that it does not have any unintended interactions with other drugs.
CBD for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery
Recovery from an SCI is usually a long and arduous process. Unfortunately, some patients never regain full function. There are two conventional recovery programs, however, that can help the patient improve their condition over time. They are physical therapy (PT) and activity-based therapy (ABT).
PT primarily consists of:
- Massage therapy
- Stretching and working out the muscles
- Manipulating the joints
- Neurodynamic exercises (to rebuild and restore muscle memory)
ABT is similar to PT, though it focuses more extensively on repetitive movements to strengthen the muscles through exercise. Both of these recovery programs focus primarily on overall health and wellness in the patient. By applying the principles from either PT or ABT, the patient can more effectively manage their pain, improve their circulation, and strengthen their muscles. In some cases, they may even regain some of their sensory functions through a process known as neuroplasticity. This is when the central nervous system creates new connections between neurons.
CBD fits perfectly with either one of these treatment modalities. It is a natural painkiller, muscle relaxant, and anti-inflammatory agent. It also promotes overall health and balance in the patient’s body. Most remarkably, though, research has shown that it improves Neuroplasticity. CBD for spinal cord injuries actually will help the central nervous system forge the new connections that are necessary for recovery from a devastating SCI.
Best CBD for Spinal Cord Injuries
Because CBD complements conventional SCI recovery programs, CBD for spinal cord injuries is best used as a daily supplement. Furthermore, it is so safe that it is impossible to take too much. A standard starting dose is anywhere from 15 to 30 milligrams, once or twice a day. CBD can be taken in capsule form, as a tincture, or even in the form of edibles. Vegan CBD Gummies are also amongst the favorites. The best thing about using CBD for spinal cord injuries is that the patient can safely start at this dose. They can then work their way up until they have the relief that they need.
It is best to treat CBD like an addition to a doctor’s program of SCI treatment and recovery. As such, it is important to work with them to determine how best to implement it. If the patient wishes to avoid potentially dangerous opioids, CBD has shown promise as an effective substitute. Patients no longer need to live with the debilitating symptoms in the aftermath of an SCI; CBD has given them the ability to lead fuller lives and improve their overall health and wellness.