Legalizing marijuana is a subject of heating debates over the years due to regulation issues. But few studies have proven that the herb can benefit one’s health. And due to its popularity, more scientists are exploring the possibilities, including doctors considering other treatments like cannabis strains for RLS.
The herb comes with many names such as marijuana, dope, weed, and pot. Yet, the Canada Public Health Association suggests using cannabis for accuracy. Cannabis refers to the plant, Cannabis sativa.
The key to understanding the herb is knowing its chemical compounds. Cannabis has 100 chemical compounds called cannabinoids. These compounds contain two active ingredients: CBD and THC.
- CBD is the non-intoxicating component known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.
- THC is the intoxicating component, known to make one “high.”
What is RLS?
Also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, this type of neurological condition creates a throbbing or pulling sensation in the legs and an overwhelming need to move them. This painful sensation happens when your leg muscles are at rest.
What Are Its Symptoms?
Symptoms usually appear during sleep, between midnight and 4:00 am, giving a person difficulty sleeping. Moreover, pain can vary each day. There are some days when it can be mild and uncomfortable. On different days, it’s irritating and painful.
These are the common accompanying symptoms of RLS:
- Sensation begins after resting for a long time;
- Relief is felt when you move such as jiggling your legs and walking;
- Worsening of symptoms in the evening; and,
- Leg twitching in the evening.
RLS symptoms are less common in the arms, face, torso, and the genital region.
Your doctor will check your medical history and ask you to describe the symptoms.
There were no specific tests that diagnose RLS; however, a group of doctors created diagnostic criteria for patients with RLS. Here are five diagnostic criteria established by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group:
- Having an urge to move the legs accompanied by uncomfortable leg sensations;
- Having an urge to move the legs and any accompanying unpleasant sensation begin or worsen during periods of rest;
- Having an urge to move the legs and accompanying unpleasant sensations relieved by movement;
- Having an urge to move the legs and any accompanying sensation during rest that only occurs or are worse in the evening;
The occurrence of the urges is a symptom of another medical or behavioral condition.
Your doctor can conduct physical and neurological exams for you. He or she may also administer a blood test to look into iron deficiency.
There are cases when a sleep study is needed and the doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist. It may require you to stay at the sleep clinic overnight, so the doctor studies your sleep activity to see if another sleeping disorder is suspected.
After these series of tests, your doctor may prescribe medications and lifestyle changes if needed.
Health Benefits Of Cannabis
Though there are pending pre-clinical and clinical trials, there are individuals who testified on its effectiveness. Also, few studies showed that the herb could do wonders for your health.
One study has shown that cannabinoids give therapeutic effects for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stage of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.
Dr. Peter Grinspoon, author, physician, and professor at Harvard Medical School, stated that substances like CBD could help relieve insomnia and treat life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy and Dravet syndrome in particular.
An article published by the National Institute of Drug Abuse stated that THC could increase appetite and reduce nausea. It is also found to alleviate muscle control problems.
Scientists are also conducting both pre-clinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat conditions such as:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Substance use disorders
- Mental disorders
Today, researchers are still searching for the possible uses of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids for medical purposes.
Can Cannabis Treat RLS?
Though there is a prevailing social stigma about cannabis due to the lack of understanding of its safe use, it has proven to be one of the most effective remedies to ailments. Cannabis used to treat side effects, and symptoms of RLS can affect your life.
Medical cannabis with THC and CBD have proven to be effective in improving sleep according to various studies.
Two studies experimented on the effects of cannabis on six patients. It was found that after inhaling CBD, the quality of sleep improved among the six patients.
A 2017 review on Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine, asserted that the medicine helps improve sleep. Patients were able to have more restful sleep after taking the drug.
Hence, cannabis strains for restless legs syndrome contain pain-relieving properties. After reviewing around 100 conclusions related to the health effects of cannabis, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that adult patients treated with cannabis were likely to alleviate pain.
A study from Universidad Complutense de Madrid concluded that using cannabis as part of the regulation of dopamine can be useful in treating movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
Other Treatments To Consider In Treating RLS
Doctors may advise their patients to make lifestyle changes/adjustments to relieve the symptoms of RLS. Here are the following suggestions:
- Practice good sleep hygiene.
- Avoid caffeinated products like chocolate, coffee, tea, and soda.
- Exercise moderately
- Practice stress-reduction activities such as yoga and meditation
For particular purposes, doctors tend to prescribe medications for improving sleep and easing pain. Your doctor may prescribe the following medicines.
- Medications that increase dopamine;
- Those affecting calcium channels;
- Muscle relaxants;
- Sleep medications; and
- Anti-seizure drugs.
- There are dopamine medications that may have worked for a while to relieve RLS but may become ineffective later. This is called augmentation. Your doctor will recommend another medication to combat this problem.
- Doctors may recommend self-care techniques for pregnant patients, not medications. But your doctor’s use of certain drugs may be approved if sensations are bothersome during your last trimester.
- There are antidepressants and antipsychotic medications that may worsen the symptoms of RLS.
If you have questions on these medications, it is best to consult your doctor first.
Until today, there are only a few studies that prove cannabis’ effectiveness in fighting RLS. Despite its popularity due to its medical benefits, further pre-clinical and clinical studies should be conducted to have a better conclusion to its pharmacological and therapeutic effects.
When considering cannabis as part of your RLS treatment, it is better to talk to your doctor.