Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness
Authors: Katie & Morgan, Dispensary Technicians

Falling under Pennsylvania’s approved qualifying conditions, Chronic Pain and Movement Disorders, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disorder that affects the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. There are four types of SMA, and they generally vary by age, so the symptoms can be different based on the classification of the diagnosis. Across the board though, SMA can cause overall muscle weakness, the weakening of respiratory muscles and respiratory stress, difficulty walking, eating, and swallowing, and generally affects day to day life. Being a genetic disorder, SMA can appear in children as young as infants, and although it is not an entirely rare disorder, it is one that individuals in the medical community are still searching for cures and treatments for, including the medical marijuana community. With that in mind, the more information that those of us who work in medical marijuana and even the general population know about SMA, the better we are able to assist patients who are afflicted by it. 

About SMA

SMA type 1 appears in new born infants and can be detected pre-birth. SMA type 2 appears in infants between 6-18 months, at which point it is apparent that the child will never be able to stand or walk. SMA type 3 appears after 18 months of age, at which point usually afflicted individuals can still walk, however, they may also have scoliosis, trouble moving their joints freely, and trouble with more strenuous movements such as running or climbing stairs. SMA type 4 appears in adults and is the rarest form of SMA, however it is also considered to be more manageable. The early signs of SMA can be hard to identify, even for parents, and is the number one genetic cause of death for infants.

Physical therapy and certain pharmaceuticals are available to treat SMA symptoms to make daily life easier for patients, and while there isn’t a medical marijuana treatment that is specific to SMA, there are still a number of benefits that patients may find with it. 

Help from Medical Marijuana

Because of the variety of ways that individuals can be affected by SMA, there is also variety in treatment, with medical marijuana potentially being a great supplement to regularly taken pharmaceuticals or taking place as the primary medical treatment (which is at the discretion of the patient and their doctor). Again, there aren’t any forms of medical marijuana treatment that are specific to SMA, however, there are plenty of ways that medical marijuana can treat symptoms associated with SMA to then improve patients’ daily quality of life. Both THC and CBD are hard hitting pain relievers, with an abundance of terpenes and other compounds that have a great deal of medical potential. Strains that are high in Myrcene and Caryophyllene, both of which are great anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving agents, can be helpful options for patients. Full flower products are can be optimal for SMA patients seeking pain relief, as the THC and CBD working together can have an even greater effect. 

There is an abundance of cannabinoid receptors present in the part of the brain responsible for motor functions, giving medical marijuana a great chance at being an effective form of treatment for SMA. Medical marijuana has demonstrated the ability to movement disorders, given that many cannabinoids have antispasticity and antitremor properties. Cannabinoids have also shown to be able to protect neurons from oxidative damage, which is considered to be a hallmark of many motor degenerative and neurological diseases. It’s also important to consider the many possible forms of consumption that cannabis can be taken in. Because of SMA effects motor functioning, there are some methods like topicals, tinctures, and other sublinguals that may be an easier form of medicine for patients to take, as well as a much more comfortable form of medication for some caregivers to give to younger SMA patients.

The symptoms associated with SMA have great potential to have effective treatment and relief with medical cannabis, however, it is something that should be discussed between doctors, patients, and caregivers when necessary. Similarly, SMA patients considering medical marijuana may want to remember that, as with any other medicine, you’ll start at a trial and error period, as everyone’s endo-cannabinoid system is unique so different treatments work for different people. Ideally, with continued awareness for SMA, more treatment options both in and outside of the world of medical cannabis can become available.

About the Author: Katie

I am Katie and I am a technician at Keystone and I am very short and very concerned about the bee population. I love marijuana and anime and when I am not being productive and writing, my favorite thing in the world to do is enjoy some marijuana while watching anime and eating dessert in my room. I also love reading, writing, non-anime cartoons, crafting, occasionally leaving my apartment, aaaaaaand other things but if I kept listing them you would get bored. I finished all the shows I’ve been binging and would appreciate suggestions. All feedback is appreciated but compliments are ESPECIALLY appreciated. Okay that’s it. 

Disclaimer: These statements have not been reviewed for accuracy by the FDA. As always, seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider when considering trying a new treatment. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your doctor first.

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