Overview of Syringomyelia or Arnold- Chiari Malformations
Chiari malformations are structural defects in the cerebellum. Normally, the cerebellum and parts of the brainstem rest at the lower rear of the skull, just above the foramen magnum. In a Chiari malformation, less commonly referred to as Arnold-Chiari malformation, the cerebellum is positioned below the foramen magnum. Chiari malformation is the leading cause of syringomyelia, which is a syrinx or cyst that accumulates cerebrospinal fluid within the spinal cord and causes the cord to expand.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, primary or congenital Chiari malformations occur during fetal development and are likely caused by genetic mutations or a lack of adequate vitamins or nutrients in the maternal diet. The malformations can also develop later in life, following an injury, infection, or exposure to harmful substances requires that spinal fluid be drained excessively from the lumbar or thoracic areas of the spine. These are referred to as secondary Chiari malformations.
Chiari malformations commonly cause headaches, swallowing problems, sleep disturbances, vocal quality changes, balance problems, and dizziness. If developed, syringomyelia’s can cause a sensory loss or an exaggerated response to pain, limb weakness and atrophy, muscle spasms, and pain.
Surgery to correct the functional disturbances and prevent the progression of damage to the central nervous system is the only treatment option for a Chiari malformation and syringomyelia.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Syringomyelia or Arnold- Chiari Malformations
Cannabis has demonstrated that it can be helpful for managing some of the symptoms associated with Arnold-Chiari malformation and syringomyelia. Cannabis use is prevalent among patients with a chronic illness, and the most frequently reported reasons for use include improvements in pain, sleep and mood8.
The cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are effective at lowering pain levels associated with a wide variety of conditions, including spasticity, headache, migraines, and other acute pain and chronic pain conditions1,4.
Cannabis has been long known to help with sleep. One survey study analyzing cannabis’ effect on patients of chronic illnesses found that 75% to 84.2% of respondents reported that cannabis “slightly/much better” improved their sleep. Users are able to fall asleep faster and sleep longer7.
There’s also strong evidence that suggests that cannabinoids contained in cannabis reduce muscle tremors and spasticity because of their activation of the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, of the endocannabinoid system5. The CB1 and CB2receptors regulate the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters necessary to curtail spasms6.
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Chiari malformation and syringomyelia. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from
Chiari Malformation Fact Sheet. (2015, August 27). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved from
Jensen, B., Chen, J., Furnish, T., and Wallace, M. (2015, October). Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain: a Review of Basic Science and Clinical Evidence. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 19(10), 524. Retrieved from
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Syed, Y.Y., McKeage, K., and Scott, L.J. (2014, April). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-cannabidiol (Sativex): a review of its use in patients with moderate to severe spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Drugs, 74(5), 563-78. Retrieved from
Tripp, D.A., Nickel, J.C., Katz, L., Krsmanovic, A., Ware, M.A., Santor, D. (2014, November). A survey of cannabis (marijuana) use and self-reported benefit in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Canadian Urological Association Journal, 8(11-12). Retrieved from
Ware, M.A., Doyle, C.R., Woods, R., Lynch, M.E., and Clark, A.J. (2003, March). Cannabis use for chronic non-cancer pain: results of a prospective survey. Pain, 102(1-2). Retrieved from
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