Overview of Tarlov Cysts

Tarlov cysts are sacs or lesions in the spine in the tailbone or sacral region. The sacral region consists of five sacral vertebrae at the base of the spine right above the tailbone. Spinal fluid fills up the cysts, which can vary in size. Smaller cysts may go undetected, while larger cysts tend to cause more symptoms. Cysts often start small and grow larger and more problematic as the sac fills with spinal fluid. Unlike other cysts that can form in the spine, Tarlov cysts contain nerve fibers within the cyst walls. Its positioning around a nerve root earns it alternative names of perineural or sacral nerve root cyst.

As fluid fills the cysts, the expanding size causes pressure and may compress nerve roots, which can cause a host of symptoms and side effects. The pressure can also cause deterioration of the bones in the area.

The specific cause of Tarlov cysts is unknown. In some cases, the spinal fluid tends to build up in cysts after an injury to the area or due to extreme exertion, such as lifting something very heavy or giving birth. Other causes may include a fall, a car accident or even an epidural. Some people may already have asymptomatic Tarlov cysts without realizing it when the trauma happens. After the trauma, the patient may begin noticing symptoms of the cysts.

Some researchers believe the cysts are congenital or that they are related to connective tissue disorders. Many patients diagnosed with Tarlov cysts have also been diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Tarlov Cysts

For a far less invasive and significantly less risky treatment, medical marijuana can be utilized for pain management. For overall chronic pain relief, medical marijuana is a far safer alternative for a long-term treatment plan. Indica strains can work to relieve headaches and migraines brought about as a result of the cysts. Additionally, medical-grade marijuana can act as a sleep aid for those restless nights. 

Specific research on cannabis and Tarlov cysts is limited, in part due to the rarity of the condition. Diseases with higher incident rates often receive more attention in research. Another factor in the limited research is the difficulty in obtaining marijuana for research due to federal regulations and its status as a Schedule I drug.

However, research has been conducted on pain in general and how marijuana works to relieve it. Medical-grade cannabis containing THC has been shown to effectively help neuropathy or peripheral nerve pain. For this reason, choosing a strain of medical cannabis high in THC may help you experience relief from the nerve pain of a Tarlov cyst.

How does marijuana help with pain? It all comes down to how it interacts with your body’s natural endocannabinoid system. This system has receptors throughout the body. Natural endocannabinoids interact with those receptors to keep your body in balance.

Marijuana contains chemicals called cannabinoids. Those chemicals also interact with the receptors in your body. That interaction with the receptors seems to offer pain relief, along with many other benefits of using marijuana. The cannabinoids in marijuana can help create a little more balance in your body.

Marijuana can help other symptoms of Tarlov cysts in addition to the pain, including:

  • Sleep problems: If the nerve pain associated with the cysts keeps you up at night, marijuana can relieve the pain that keeps you awake and help you to feel sleepy.

  • Bladder control: Tarlov cysts can sometimes cause issues with bladder control. Marijuana can be useful in improving bladder control.

  • Muscle spasticity: If your condition also causes muscle spasticity, medical cannabis may help ease this symptom. 

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