Spasticity is a medical symptom that causes severe tightness and rigidity in the muscles due to lengthy contractions. Normally, messages are passed from the muscles via the nervous system and spinal cord to the brain. However, strokes, conditions present at birth, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and trauma to the spinal cord and brain, will impede how these signals move towards and away from the affected muscles.


Learn more about symptoms

Symptom definition

Most prolific in the legs, it can also impact other muscles throughout the body with the intensity differing from patient to patient. Most people with spasticity experience disfigurement and disability, alongside the pain from involuntary muscle spasms.

Underlying symptoms include:

  • Scissoring (involuntary crossing of the legs)
  • Clonus (quick succession of muscle contractions) 
  • Contractures or immovable joints
  • Hypertonicity (building of excessive muscle tone)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Amplified reflexes to deep sinews or tendons

Standard Treatment

Orthodox treatments for spasticity range from physiotherapy and medication including Botox injections and baclofen. Body braces can also be prescribed along with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy. Similarly, intrathecal medications are delivered to the cerebrospinal fluid via a pump that is attached to the abdomen during surgery. Another procedure, Rhizotomy, sees a neurosurgeon carefully cut fibres away from the spine’s nerves. Although effective, some may find these complex treatments daunting.

How medical cannabis could help

Sativex (an equal mix of THC and CBD) is applied orally by a spray, and, according to the findings of a 2013 clinical trial, may alleviate multiple sclerosis muscle spasticity. There were no serious side effects in this trial, so Sativex could prove an alternative treatment option.

FAQs about Medical Cannabis

FAQs about Medical Cannabis FAQs about Medical Cannabis
Is medical cannabis legal in the UK?

Yes. Cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) have been legal since the 1st of November 2018, when they moved from a Schedule 1 product to a Schedule 2 product. This reflects their potential for medical use.

Who is allowed to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK?

Cannabis-based medicinal products, also known as CBMPs, can be prescribed by private consultants, when appropriate, within their specialty area when there is unmet clinical need.

In the UK cannabis medicines are accessed primarily via private clinics. However, any specialist physician can prescribe cannabis medicines. GROW® is here to provide education and support to any specialists looking to prescribe or just to find out more.

Is medical cannabis available on the NHS?

There are 3 licensed medicines which contain cannabinoids – Epidiolex for some forms of epilepsy, Sativex for multiple sclerosis (MS), and Nabilone for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). However, only a handful of prescriptions have been issued in the NHS to date.

Most cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) are instead unlicensed, and they must be written on a private prescription, typically issued by private clinics specialising in medical cannabis treatment.

What cannabis medicines are available?

Cannabis medicines come in multiple forms; flowers, often referred to as herbal cannabis (to be vaporised, rather than smoked), oils (taken under the tongue) and capsules. Cannabis medicines come in high-THC, high-CBD and balanced varieties.

Smoking medical cannabis is illegal. Medical cannabis can instead be taken in different forms depending on the desired speed of onset and duration of action, which is discussed between the patient and their doctor.

Which clinic should I use?

It’s important to find a clinic that works for you. Most importantly you need to find a Doctor that specialises in your condition. For example, patients with pain will need to see pain specialist, while those with a mental health condition must see a psychiatrist.

Which pharmacies can I use?

It’s important for patients to know they can use any pharmacy that supplies the appropriate medicines in the UK.

Some clinics have a preferred pharmacy but will be able to send prescriptions to others if needed. If patients have any questions about available medicines, they can contact IPS Pharma.

What should I do before my consultation?

To speed up the process, patients should bring a copy of their medical records. These are then forwarded to the clinic in advance of the first consultation.

Is medical cannabis the same as over-the-counter CBD?

No. Cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) are only prescribed by GMC-registered specialist doctors. As they are medicinal, CBMPs are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA); which ensures the safety, quality, and effectiveness of medicines in the UK.

Over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products can be purchased without a prescription in pharmacies, health food shops, or online. These may come in forms such as oil tinctures, capsules, or vapes. They are not medicinal products as they are regulated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as a food supplement, with a 0.3% limit on THC.

What if I don’t get a prescription?

Patients are free to seek a second opinion from another clinic. Patients should ensure the clinic has communicated their reasons for deciding not to prescribe. It may be that they feel you should try other medicines before trying cannabis medicines, or that they need to see more information about your medical history before they are happy to prescribe.

How can I learn more about medical cannabis?

For patient enquiries - [email protected]

For doctor enquiries - [email protected]

For all other enquiries – [email protected]

Healthcare professionals can also sign up to our Doctor Portal.

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