Medical Research

Medical Cannabis for Spasticity

Written by Loren Devito, PhD

How CBD can be used to effectively address symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive neurological condition. While MS presents differently in everyone, it is usually associated with problems motor movements, fatigue, weakness, cognitive problems, and vision problems. As the disease advances, people tend to have greater difficulties walking and often have to use a cane or wheelchair.

People with MS experience chronic symptoms on a daily basis. However, they also sometimes have a relapse, meaning that their symptoms get much worse. And, depending on the type of MS, people may experience multiple relapses each year.

One particularly difficult symptom to manage is called spasticity – an increase in muscle tone or rapid muscle contractions that cannot be controlled.1Spasticity can be triggered by sudden movements or high temperatures and can cause serious complications. While there are several different types of medications that can treat the condition, spasticity can be very disruptive. Luckily, medical cannabis is quite an effective treatment that has helped many people control their spasticity.

MS is a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in many states where its use is legalized. In fact, the National MS Society has published guidelines regarding the use of medical cannabis for MS based on key studies.2 Several clinical trials have looked at the safety and effectiveness of different types of cannabis formulations on MS-related spasticity. In fact, Sativex, an oromucosal cannabinoid spray (1:1 CBD to THC ratio), is approved outside of the US for the treatment of spasticity due to MS. Clinical trials have demonstrated that Sativex is effective in reducing spasticity and pain in people with MS.2

Other formulations and methods of cannabis consumption, including extracts and smoking, can also help relieve pain and reduce muscle stiffness.2In addition to looking at spasticity, studies have also been conducted on the use of cannabinoids in slow the progression of MS. Marinol, an oral formulation of THC approved by the FDA to stimulate appetite in people with AIDs or people with cancer taking chemotherapy, has been evaluated for the treatment of MS. Results from a clinical trial showed that, while cannabis may be helpful in treating some symptoms of MS, the tested formulation did not affect disease progression.3

While many of these studies have looked at the role of both CBD and THC on spasticity, there is evidence indicating that CBD alone might be effective as well.4In fact, Harvest One Cannabis is advancing research into its oral cannabidiol compound, PTL101, in for MS-related spasticity, following promising results from its Phase 1 trial.

The National MS Society recommends that people with MS who are interested in using medical cannabis work with their neurologist to evaluate the best formulation for their needs.


  1. Lakhan, S.E., Rowland M., “Whole Plant Cannabis Extracts in the Treatment of Spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review”, BMC Neurology, 2009, Volume 9.
  2. Yadav, Y., et al., “Summary of Evidence-based Guideline: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Multiple Sclerosis”, Neurology, 2014, Volume 82.
  3. .Zajicek, J., et al., “Effect of Dronabinol on Progression in Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (CUPID): A Randomised, Placebo-controlled Trial”, The Lancet Neurology, 2013, Volume 12.
  4. Rudroff, T., Sosnoff , J., “Cannabidiol to Improve Mobility in People with Multiple Sclerosis”, Frontiers in Neurology, 2018, Volume 9.

About the author

Loren Devito, PhD

Loren DeVito, PhD is a neuroscientist and science writer with expertise in cannabis science and medicine. She is committed to communicating evidence-based information about cannabis and its healing properties. Learn more about her work at