When it comes to chronic headache pain, you may normally reach for an over the counter remedy like ibuprofen or something stronger like an opioid to fight migraines. While these are recognized treatments for headaches, they don’t always work, or they come with undesirable side effects. Many patients are now finding relief from their headaches with medical cannabis.
What Type of Headache Do You Have?
Your average headache is clinically referred to as a “primary headache” and refers to independent conditions that cause pain in the head, face, or neck. Examples of primary headaches include migraines and tension headaches. When most people hear the term migraine, they often think of a severe headache. But headaches are only one symptom of migraines, and they can range in severity and length.
Another type of headache is called a ‘tension headache’. Tension-type headaches are the ones that most of us who don’t have migraines get on occasion. Symptoms of tension-type headaches can include: clenching the jaw, hunger, depression or anxiety, lack of sleep, poor posture, and stress.
Cluster headaches are a third type of headache and can be more severe but typically shorter in duration than a migraine. These are the least common type of headaches, affecting fewer than one in 1,000 people.
How Are Headaches Typically Treated?
Doctors typically treat tension headaches and mild migraines with acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Some lifestyle factors may also help prevent migraine episodes and some types of headache. These include exercising regularly, making dietary changes that eliminate trigger foods, using relaxation techniques, such as mindful breathing and meditation, learning stress-management techniques, and keeping a journal to track patterns and uncover potential triggers.
How Can Cannabis Help?
A clinical trial investigated cannabis for both prevention and relief, finding that cannabinoids are just as suitable as a prophylaxis for migraine attacks as other pharmaceutical treatments. The study found that, for migraine prevention, a 200mg daily oral dose of combined tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) was as effective as a 25 mg daily dose of amitriptyline (chlordiazepoxide), a common migraine medication. When administered as an acute treatment, the same dose of 25 mg of cannabis reduced the intensity of pain in migraine patients by 43.5 percent.
According to Clinical Pain Advisor, patients with headaches as their primary condition for treating with medical marijuana were more likely to prefer sativa over strains with equal proportions of CBD and THC compared with patients with chronic pain and arthritis.
A popular cannabis and migraine support group has feedback suggesting CBD is most beneficial as a preventive treatment when taken daily in 30 to 50 mg doses.
Leafly suggests the following strains for headaches, among others: Wonder Kid, Goji Diesel, and Turbo Mind Warp.
Are Migraines Caused By Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
There is a theory that those who suffer from migraines may have a deficiency in the natural endocannabinoids that their bodies produce.If we don’t produce enough endocannabinoids to keep our ECS receptors working properly, this creates an imbalance that can cause a whole host of issues.
Cannabinoid research pioneer Ethan Russo hypothesized that this type of dysfunction could be the underlying cause of certain chronic conditions, like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and, in some cases, migraines.
If Russo’s theory is correct, it makes sense that cannabinoids found in cannabis, like THC or CBD, could be a helpful headache remedy, as they are directly or indirectly stimulating the endocannabinoid system.
To see if your chronic pain due to headaches may qualify for a medical marijuana card, reach out to us at MedicateOH@gmail.com and we can match you with a physician in your area.