What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the name for a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain before, during, or soon after birth that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.
All people with CP have problems with movement and posture. Many also have related conditions such as intellectual disability; seizures; problems with vision, hearing, or speech; changes in the spine (such as scoliosis); or joint problems (such as contractures).
Different types of Cerebral Palsy
Doctors classify CP according to the main type of movement disorder involved. Depending on which areas of the brain are affected, one or more of the following movement disorders can occur:
- Stiff muscles (spasticity)
- Uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia)
- Poor balance and coordination (ataxia)
There are four main types of CP:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy – This is the most common type of CP. Spastic CP affects about 80% of people with CP. People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone. This means their muscles are stiff and, as a result, their movements can be awkward.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – people with dyskinetic CP have problems controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet, and legs, making it difficult to sit and walk. The movements are uncontrollable and can be slow and writhing or rapid and jerky. Sometimes the face and tongue are affected and the person has a hard time sucking, swallowing, and talking. A person with dyskinetic CP has muscle tone that can change (varying from too tight to too loose) not only from day to day, but even during a single day.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – People with ataxic CP have problems with balance and coordination. They might be unsteady when they walk. They may have a hard time with quick movements or movements that need a lot of control, like writing. They could have a hard time controlling their hands or arms when they reach for something.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy – Some people have symptoms of more than one type of CP. The most common type of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic CP.
While there is no known cure for CP, there’s a range of treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms associated with the condition. Parents of children with cerebral palsy will search for everything that can relieve their child’s suffering and allow them to function as effectively as possible.
Recent studies have highlighted CBD oil as a potential treatment option for children with cerebral palsy, especially when treating its physical symptoms and managing associated conditions.
Let’s take a look at what science says about the health benefits of CBD for cerebral palsy.
The treatments of cerebral palsy range from physiotherapy to botox injections to oral muscle relaxants and surgical procedures. Muscle relaxants can provide short-term relief, but the benefits are outweighed by potential side effects such as blurred vision, lack of muscle control, or depression. On top of that, people relying on muscle relaxants also have a higher chance of developing dependency and withdrawal symptoms.
CBD’s effects on the brain and neurological system have been widely researched. It has been shown to lessen the number and frequency of seizure attacks in epileptic patients, as well as muscle spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis.
But does it help with cerebral palsy? Let’s take a look.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex neurobiological network that maintains homeostasis throughout the human body. Studies have identified cannabinoid receptors — CB1 and CB2 — in virtually every region of the human body. Their highest concentrations are found in the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and immune system.
Researchers have found high cannabinoid receptors in the basal ganglia and cerebellum — the areas that control motor function.
Studies showed that CB1 expression is engaged in spasticity and motor function among patients with neurodegenerative conditions.
A study posted in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders has shown that CB1 receptors in the central nervous system are targets that can trigger antispastic effects. The authors concluded that cannabinoid-based treatments might potentially improve the signaling of these targets to help improve muscle movements like tremors or spasms.
Furthermore, CB2 expression has been found to block inflammatory proteins called cytokines in the central nervous system. Studies explained that inflamed CNS might be the underlying cause of various symptoms linked to cerebral palsy, such as tremors and spasms.
That being said, more clinical studies are needed to confirm these initial findings —and to help us learn how the activation of ECS can help children with cerebral palsy.
While studies are still being conducted to determine the effectiveness of CBD, many people have found that in provides a variety of benefits. It may help those with cerebral palsy in the following ways:
- Relaxation – CBD has been found to work as a natural muscle relaxant, and it can also help reduce inflammation. This can provide benefits for those with spastic cerebral palsy, and it can help reduce muscle stiffness and increase a person’s range of motion.
- Managing seizures – CBD has some anti-epileptic effects, and it has been found to significantly reduce the number of seizures that a person experiences, while also helping to make seizures more manageable.
- Pain relief – Since CBD boosts serotonin levels, it can provide some relief from the pain that many people with cerebral palsy experience in the muscles and joints.
- Anxiety reduction – The use of CBD has been found to improve mood. Many children with CP experience “performance anxiety” as they learn to complete their daily tasks, and by reducing anxiety levels, CBD oil may be able to help them function better while improving their overall well-being.
“I was looking for something away from a painkiller” – Trevor Crombie
Luba Blumkin performed one of the most relevant studies into CBD’s effects on complex motor disorder. Nineteen of the 25 patients studied had cerebral palsy. The 2017 study, which was conducted by the Wolfson Medical Center near Israel’s capital, Tel Aviv, analyzed the effect of CBD on 36 children (aged 1-17) with cerebral palsy.
After analyzing the children for two months to ensure their conditions were stable, the team gave the kids CBD oil three times a day via a feeding tube or orally.
Within four months, there was a noticeable improvement in their condition. Blumkin asserts that the biggest positive change was in motor function. Other benefits included less pain and an improvement in quality of life and sleep.
Research from 2012 found that cannabis provided the best relief for CP patients compared to several other medications.
All of the participants in the study continued taking their existing medication along with the CBD oil. One group received oil with a THC:CBD ratio of 1:6, while another group received oil with a 1:20 ratio. Bar-Lev Schleider said that both doses were effective. All of our products do contain trace amounts of THC, following the UK guidelines.
The Wolfson Medical Center study was extremely important because, until that point, there was relatively little data on CBD’s effect on cerebral palsy. A survey by Adam Hirsh et al., published in the March 2012 edition of the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, found that cannabis provided the best relief for CP patients compared to several other medications.
They reported that a “not-insignificant number of patients with CP are using this drug for pain management and are finding it to be at least as effective as other more standard treatments for pain.”
Overall, there is a suggestion that CBD products could have medical efficacy for individuals with cerebral palsy. It may help with symptoms including spasticity, sleep disturbance, and pain. As it doesn’t cause an intoxicating high, medical researchers believe it is safe to give to children, although more studies are needed in the future.
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