Medical Marijuana for Restless Legs or Leg Cramps

Medical Marijuana for Restless Legs or Leg Cramps

Are you suffering from restless legs or leg cramps? This article includes relevant information about medical marijuana and cannabinoid-based medications like CBD for restless legs.

Marijuana (cannabis) has more than 100 active elements, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes euphoric highs, and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound from hemp plants.

The U.S. federal law forbids using the whole Cannabis sativa plant and its derivatives for any purpose. Nevertheless, CBD with less than 0.3% of THC is legal to consume. Still, it depends on the legislation in every state.

How Cannabis May Help With Restless Legs Syndrome or Leg Cramps 

A study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology reviewed the characteristics of restless leg syndrome and the supposed mechanisms by which cannabis may employ its analgesic effects.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a chronic sensorimotor condition characterized by an urge to move the legs. The impulse is often accompanied by pain and other unpleasant sensations.

Common symptoms include sensations that start after rest, usually felt after sitting for an extended period and nighttime leg twitching that worsens in the evening.  

RLS affects nearly 3% of the people in North America and Europe. The condition is associated with morbidity and negatively impacts the quality of life.

Individuals who suffer from RLS also experience significant trouble sleeping, resulting in several other issues, such as poor school or work performance.  

The NIH (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) determined that untreated moderate to severe cases of RLS may lead to a 20% decrease in work productivity. Such a condition may also contribute to anxiety and depression.

Another study examined how smoking cannabis affects RLS. The result showed that chronic cannabis use is associated with lowered dopamine synthesis capacity, accounting for the reported cannabis’ efficacy in RLS.

The efficacy of cannabis in people with RLS may be due to its ability to restore regular neural activity and prevent the excessive release of dopamine.

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control movement and muscle activity, acts as a messenger between the nervous system and the brain to help regulate and coordinate action.

Damaged nerve cells result in dopamine reduction in the brain, causing involuntary movements and muscle spasms. Since dopamine levels naturally decrease towards the end of the day, the symptoms of RLS are often worse during the night.

A study from the Journal of Sleep Medicine examined six patients with severe RLS who reported no relief from traditional treatments. These patients tested medical cannabis, and all of them reported total remission of the RLS symptoms.

On the other hand, leg cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that are often painful. Although they’re usually harmless, they can affect your sleep and general quality of life.

Studies suggest that marijuana may help calm muscle spasticity. It is well documented that spasms originate in portions of the brain that control movement, including areas with abundant cannabinoid receptors.

Cannabinoid receptors, namely, CB1 and CB2, are found throughout the body. They’re also essential components of the ECS.

CB1 plays a significant role in pain sensation. The binding and stimulation of these receptors may alleviate pain signals in the brain. Meanwhile, CB2 receptors can regulate inflammation.

The characteristics mentioned above make medical marijuana a promising alternative that may help with leg cramps. However, more research is needed to determine its long-term benefits.

Cannabis’ Potential as a Therapeutic Drug 

The cannabis plant has multiple components, including cannabinoids like THC and CBD. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) mediates the activity of these plant-based cannabinoids.

The ECS is a nerve signaling system in the human body that helps maintain emotional, cognitive, and physiological stability. This system ensures that there’s homeostasis (balance) among the various chemicals inside the body.

Unfortunately, stimuli like infection, disease, or pain may disrupt the balance quickly. 

Although cannabis has not been registered as a drug, the potential of cannabinoid-based medications to treat different conditions has led various countries to authorize their clinical use.

For instance, medications including cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, may help with nausea, sleeping disorder, or epilepsy.  

In the U.S., the most common use for medical marijuana is for pain control. The antinociceptive effects of marijuana, or its ability to block a painful stimulus, has been documented in many neurological conditions.  

Medical Marijuana: Safety, Risks, and Side Effects

Further longitudinal studies are recommended to determine the safety of medical marijuana. However, in general, there are possible risks and side effects, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Slower reaction times
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Potential for addiction
  • Increased appetite
  • Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  • Mental illness or hallucinations
  • Increased risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Negative drug-to-drug interaction
  • Withdrawal symptoms


You may find yourself in a state where you want to learn more about medical marijuana. You may feel embarrassed to bring this up at first, but it’s vital to be entirely honest and open with your doctor.

The studies about the purported therapeutic benefits of marijuana may be promising. However, they’re still inconclusive.

Thus, it’s necessary to consult a medical professional if you’re considering using medical marijuana for conditions such as restless legs or leg cramps.


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