Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) & Medical Marijuana

A Spinal Cord Injury impairs muscle function, sensation, or autonomic function below the wound site.  Spinal injuries result from physical trauma such as accidents, bullet wounds, falls, or sports mishaps.  Secondary causes include infection, loss of blood flow and tumors.

Symptoms depend on the location and severity of damage, ranging from pain to numbness to paralysis. The prognosis (outcome) ranges from full recovery to permanent quadriplegia.  Complications include muscle atrophy, pressure sores, infections, and respiratory problems.


“Before I knew it, I was once again being whisked down the hallways at the new hospital into an even bigger room, one that, unbeknownst to me, would be my home for what would feel like a long, long time.”

 Jennifer Starzec, 5K, Ballet, and a Spinal Cord Injury


"The spinal cord is loaded with Cannabinoid receptors. These cannabinoid compounds [from Marijuana] apparently reduce swelling from inflammation [the major symptom of arthritis]. But more than that, they kill the pain from inflammation specifically. They work on the peripheral nerves that carry pain from your joint into the spinal cord."

-- J. Michael Walker, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of Indiana


The Use of Medical Marijuana to Manage Symptom Burden in Spinal Cord Injury

It is now understood how Cannabis works in the body.  Medicinal compounds found in Cannabis, called Cannabinoids, activate specific receptors throughout the body and produce therapeutic effects.  When Cannabis smoke or vapor is inhaled, compounds pass rapidly from the lungs to the blood,  which are then carried throughout the body to the brain and organs. The central nervous and immune system is profoundly affected, reducing pain and inflammation.


"Our study adds to a growing body of literature supporting the use of Cannabis for the treatment of neuropathic pain. It provides additional evidence of the efficacy of vaporized cannabis as well as establishes low dose Cannabis (1.29%.. a fraction of high THC strains) as having a favorable risk-benefit ratio."

--  Researchers at the University of California, Davis Medical Center


Nerve Regeneration, Pain Management and Medical Marijuana

Researchers have recently found that Marijuana might well cause new cell growth in the human brain.  In mammals, nerve cells are constantly produced in the brain (hippocampus) which function in learning, memory and mood.  Drug abusers of alcohol, nicotine and cocaine have been shown to experience suppressed brain cell repair and growth.   A synthetic cannabinoid (chemically identical to compound found in Marijuana) was found to cause new neuron and nerve cells to grow in the brains of rats. Furthermore, the rats exhibited reduced fear and agitation that corresponds with anxiety in humans.    Dr. Xia Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and colleagues decided to see what effects a Cannabinoids have on the brain.   They found that rats that received high doses of HU210 (similar to THC) increased the rate of nerve cell formation in the brain (hippocampus) by about 40%.

Facts and Figures

  • 250,000 Americans have spinal cord injuries
  • 52% of spinal cord injured individuals are paraplegic and 47% quadriplegic
  • 11,000 new injuries yearly
  • 82% SCI are male
  • 89% of all SCI individuals are discharged from hospitals to a private home
  • Initial SCI hospitalization costs, $140,000
  • Average first year expenses, SCI injury, $198,000

-- Source, National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center

MMJDOCTORONLINE Notes:  If you have any questions about this article in relation to your conditions or symptoms, a Medical Marijuana doctor is here to provide a consultation.  We provide 420 evaluations and MMJ Cards that allow clients access at any licensed Medical Marijuana Dispensary in the State of California.

Further Reading - Research Breakthroughs

The treatment of spasticity with Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol in persons with spinal cord injury

THC is an effective and safe drug in the treatment of spasticity. At least 15-20 mg per day were needed to achieve a therapeutic effect.

Delta-9-THC as an alternative therapy for overactive bladders in spinal cord injury

These preliminary results indicate a reduction of the overactivity of the detrusor of the bladder especially in the THC-HS-supp group with potential therapeutic consequences. The different results between oral and rectal application may demonstrate their different bioavailability.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol shows antispastic and analgesic effects

Delta-9-THC showed a significant beneficial effect on spasticity. In the dosage of THC used no altered consciousness occurred.

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