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Overview of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is group of permanent neurological disorders that affect muscle coordination and body movement. The disorders appear in infancy or early childhood. Most children with cerebral palsy are born with the disorder and signs typically appear before the age of three.

There are four main types of cerebral palsy, including spastic cerebral palsy, dyskinetic cerebral palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy, and mixed cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common, accounting for about 80 percent of people with cerebral palsy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most severe form of spastic cerebral palsy is spastic quadriplegia, which affects all four limbs.

A lack of muscle coordination is the most common symptom associated with cerebral palsy. Children also commonly have stiff or tight muscles and spasticity. The spasticity, which leads to cartilage degeneration and contractures, can cause significant pain. Other neurological symptoms can also develop, such as seizures, hearing loss, bladder and bowel control problems, and impaired vision.

There is no treatment or cure for cerebral palsy, but early intervention and medications have shown to help children overcome developmental disabilities and improve muscle control. Medications to help manage seizures, spasms, and pain are common. Children may use braces, walkers, or wheelchairs to get around. In some cases, surgery to release tight muscles or correct anatomical abnormalities is necessary.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Cerebral Palsy

Research examining the effects of cannabis on cerebral palsy is relatively limited, but the studies that have been done show great promise. In one survey, marijuana was found to be the most effective method for reducing pain in adults with cerebral palsy6. In a case study, a 45-year-old man suffering from seizures related to cerebral palsy experienced a marked improvement following cannabis treatment8. In another study, cannabinoids were shown to provide neuroprotective effects in animals with brain damage mimicking that of cerebral palsy in humans12. Another found that two daily mouth sprays of cannabinoids improved the quality of life and decreased the need for assistance in a 28-year-old man with severe cerebral palsy1.

Additionally, cannabis and its cannabinoids have demonstrated therapeutic benefits for managing symptoms that are commonly associated with the neurological disorder., such as spasms, seizures, and pain. In multiple sclerosis patients, cannabis has shown to be effective at significantly reducing, and in some cases even eliminating, muscle spasms and seizures2,4,10,11,13,14. Cannabis has also proven to be an effective pain-relieving agent3,7.


  1. Arvio, M., Bjelogrlic-Laakso, N., Salokivi, T. (2014). Cannabinoid mouth spray brought help to a severely spastic young man. Duodecim, 130(14), 1452-4. Retrieved from

  2. Blair, R.E., Deshpande, L.S., and  DeLorenzo, R.J. (2015, September). Cannabinoids: is there a potential treatment role in epilepsy? Expert Opinion on Pharmacology, 16(13), 1911-4. Retrieved from

  3. Boychuck, D.G., Goddard, G., Mauro, G., and Orellana, M.F. (2015 Winter). The effectiveness of cannabinoids in the management of chronic nonmalignant neuropathic pain: a systematic review. Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache, 29(1), 7-14. Retrieved from

  4. Devinsky, O., Cilio, M.R., Cross, H., Fernandez-Ruiz, J., French, J., Hill, C., Katz, R., Di Marzo, V., Jutras-Aswad, D., Notcutt, W.G., Martinez-Orgado, J., Robson, P.J., Rohrback, B.G., Thiele, E., Whalley, B., and Friedman, D. (2014, June). Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia, 55(6), 791-802. Retrieved from

  5. Facts About Cerebral Palsy. (2015, July 13). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

  6. Hirsch, A.T., Kratz, A.L., Engel, J.M., and Jensen, M.P. (2011, March). Survey results of pain treatments in adults with cerebral palsy. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 90(3), 207-216. Retrieved from

  7. Lynch, M.E., and Campbell, F. (2011, November). Cannabinoids for treatment of chronic non-cancer pain; a systematic review of randomized trials. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 72(5), 735-744. Retrieved from

  8. Mortati, K., Dworetzky, B., and Devinsky, O. (2007, Spring). Marijuana: an effective antiepileptic treatment in partial epilepsy? A case report and review of the literature. Reviews in Neurological Diseases, 4(2), 103-6. Retrieved from

  9. NINDS Cerebral Palsy Information Page. (2016, March 15). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved from

  10. Pertwee, R.G. (2002, August). Cannabinoids and multiple sclerosis. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 95(2), 165-74. Retrieved from

  11. Rosenberg, E.C., Tsien, R.W., Whalley, B.J., and Devinsky, O. (2015, August 18). Cannabinoids and Epilepsy. Neurotherapeutics, Epub ahead of print. Retrieved from

  12. Shouman, B., Fontaine, R.H., Baud, O., Schwendimann, L., Keller, M., Spedding, M., Lelievre, V., and Gressens, P. (2006, June). Endocannabinoids potentially protect the newborn brain against AMPA-kainate receptor mediated excitotoxic damage. British Journal of Pharmacology, 149(4), 442-51. Retrieved from

  13. 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

  14. Szaflarski, J.P., and Bebin, E.M. (2014, December). Cannabis, cannabidiol, and epilepsy–from receptors to clinical response. Epilepsy & Behavior, 41, 277-82. Retrieved from

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