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syringomyelia and cannabis

Treating Syringomyelia with Cannabis

Medical Marijuana Manages Most Syringomyelia Symptoms

Syringomyelia refers the development of a fluid-filled sac called a cyst within the spinal cord. Many people have these spinal cord cysts without knowing it. Most of the time, syringomyelia is benign; however, over time, the cysts can grow, damaging the surrounding spinal cord tissue and causing a host of symptoms such as pain, weakness, insensitivity to extremes of heat and cold and even paralysis.

Syringomyelia can begin as a result of trauma, meningitis, or a tumor. Although most spinal cords cysts are benign, they may suddenly start to grow as a result of coughing, straining or an injury to the spinal cord. The most common symptoms of an enlarging syringomyeliac cyst are stiffness and/or pain in the back, shoulders, arms and legs, scoliosis and bowel problems. These symptoms are broadly labeled as “Chiari pain,” derived from a genetic disorder called Chiari malformation, which is one of the most common causes of syringomyelia. After, Chiara malformation, spinal cord injury is the next most-common cause of syringomyelia.

The most common cure for syringomyelia is surgery by a specialist to remove the cysts. A shunt is used to drain the cyst of fluid, after which the cyst disappears slowly over time. Surgery carries with it the increased risk of additional damage to the spinal cord. Delaying or refusing surgery when it is a viable option risks allowing cysts to grow, which could possibly lead to paralysis or death. In cases where surgery is not an option, such as when the cyst is located too close to a major artery or nerve center, doctors usually prescribe medications to alleviate symptoms and help with pain management. Nerve pain medications, headache medications and opiate painkillers are the most commonly prescribed treatments to alleviate the symptoms of inoperable syringomyelia.

These medications have no power to cure syringomyelia; they are intended only to reduce the severity of its symptoms and to improve patients’ quality of life. Sadly, these medications usually impose their side-effects, such as liver damage resulting from the consumption of so many medications. The addictive potential of opiate painkillers is well-known, and a hazard many sufferers of syringomyelia have to must in order to manage the pain and discomfort caused by their condition. Nerve pain and headache medications take their toll on the liver and come with their own set of side-effects.

Medical marijuana may be a much simpler method of managing the range of symptoms presented by syringomyelia. Medical cannabis offers the pain-alleviating properties of opiates without their addictive potential, as well as the nerve pain and headache-alleviating properties of many medications prescribed to treat syringomyelia symptoms. In Illinois, marijuana is recognized by many health professionals as a suitable treatment for nerve pain, headaches and many forms of chronic pain, and Illinois dispensaries have many strains suitable for these purposes. Ingesting medical cannabis in a concentrated liquid or edible form is the recommended method of ingestion for sufferers of syringomyelia. Smoking the plant form of medical marijuana is not recommended as coughing may cause spinal cysts to become enlarged.

For more information visit the American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project.

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