Treating Migraines & Tension Headaches with Cannabis

Treating Migraines & Tension Headaches with Cannabis

Cannabis has actually been used, primarily orally, as a migraine treatment, as well as other forms of headaches for 1,500 years. It’s been hypothesized that some forms of migraine may actually result from an endocannabinoid deficiency.  Since symptoms of other serious ailments can be misinterpreted as migraine, patients should always consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of severe headaches

What are Migraines? 

A migraine headache is a recurring, pulsating, vascular headache usually developing on one side of the head; characterized by a slow onset that may be preceded by an “aura” during which a sensory disturbance occurs, such as confusion or some visual interference. migraine headache are also called blind headache; sick headache; vascular headache

The pain intensity gradually becomes more severe and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, irritability, fatigue, sweating, or chills. 

Migraines occur at any age with more frequency in females and those with a positive family history for migraine headaches. There is an increase in migraine headaches during periods of stress and crisis as well as a correlation with the menstrual cycle. Dilation of the vessels in the head along with a drop in the serotonin level (which acts as a vasoconstrictor and a neurotransmitter, aiding in nerve transmission) occur at the onset of the migraine, which may last for hours or for days. 

Classic Migraines 

A classic migraine is a unilateral (meaning it occurs on one side of the head) headache preceded by a characteristic scotoma, a visual disturbance appearing as a flashing blind spot with luminous edges, lasting 20 to 25 minutes and disappearing when the headache begins.  

Common Migraines 

A common migraine is a migraine in which the headache is not limited to one side and neurologic disturbances (I.e., hypersensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting) not precede the headache but occur during its course; relief is usually produced by sleep

Less common Migraines include abdominal, ocular, and chronic Migraines. While cluster and thunderclap headaches are severe in intensity, they are not considered migraine headaches

Common tension headaches affect close to 80 percent of the population. Causes of tension headaches can include: 

treatment for migraine headaches includes medications to prevent the onset of the headaches and medications to relieve the headache and diminish or reduce the severity of the symptoms

Effectiveness of Cannabis on Migraines and Headaches 

Cannabis’ effectiveness is due to its prophylaxis qualities, which helps reduce the frequency of Migraines in many users. It also very effective in treating the symptoms of many common tension headaches.  

*Caution is strongly advised before using Cannabis to treat the headaches of younger patients. 

Understanding Endocannabinoids and Migraine Headaches 

The easiest way to understand migraine headaches and endocannabinoids, is thinking of it as a series of steps. The first step is experiencing a migraine trigger such as: 

Whichever migraine trigger it may be, the trigger initiates a chemical reaction within the brain. This chemical reaction may normally stimulate the release of endocannabinoids in an attempt to help restore equilibrium. For reasons unknown, people who suffer from migraine headaches (referred to as migraineurs) don’t always release these endocannabinoids. This absence of endocannabinoids may be indicative of an endocannabinoid deficiency. 

Without these endocannabinoids, communication cannot be normalized. The migraine trigger therefore causes pain-sensing cells in the brain stem to release neuropeptides which stimulate other pain-sensing cells into releasing more neuropeptides. The release of more neuropeptides causes a cascade. 

This cascade or flood of Chemicals causes abnormal Dilation of blood vessels on the surface of the brain. The Dilation of blood vessels can also be thought of as a jump in pressure and this jump in pressure increases swelling in the surrounding tissues, causing pain levels to greatly increase. 

Cannabis Dosing for Migraine Headaches 

There are two ways to approach Cannabis dosing for migraine headaches

  • Prophylactic  
  • Symptomatic 

The Prophylaxis Approach 

The prophylaxis approach is intended to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches.  

Prophylaxis is intended to help supplement endogenous cannabinoids with its equivalents from the cannabinoid plant. Taking a small daily dose of Cannabis (below 2.5 milligrams of THC or its equivalent) produces little to no intoxication. The prophylactic dosing appears to be more effective a when taken upon waking up in the morning or during midafternoon. It’s all dependent on whether the user has noted a pattern for the occurrence of migraine headaches

The Symptomatic Approach 

The symptomatic approach is intended to relieve the pain and nausea associated with migraine headaches after their onset. 

Symptomatic relief appears to be more effective when taken early in the progression of the migraine. If the user has already been vomiting from the migraine headache-using Cannabis sublingually, smoking, or vaporizing Cannabis up to 10 milligrams of THC can be very helpful. 

If the migraine headache has become severe enough, doses of up to 25 milligrams of THC can be effective in helping to sedate the user, as well as reducing extreme nausea.  

Adding CBD to the THC dose can help reduce the intensity of THC psychoactivity.  

It’s important to remember that with Cannabis dosing and pain, there’s a “sweet spot”. Caution must always be taken to avoid overmedicating with Cannabis

Cannabis Dosing for Common Tension Headaches 

When dosing for common tension headaches, the “sweet spot” approach should always be followed. For tension headaches, 2.5 to 5 milligrams of THC should be effective dosing. An additional to the THC, 2.5 milligrams of CBD can also help.  

Quick Tip:

When CBD is dosed alone, it can cause mild headaches

Effective Ways to Ingest Cannabis for Migraine Headaches 

Oral Cannabis for Migraine Headaches 

Small doses of oral Cannabis are recommended and can be quite effective in reducing the occurrence of migraine headaches. oral doses can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) for faster onset, or it can be swallowed for a slower release of THC

Vaping and Smoking Cannabis for Migraine Headaches 

Vaping and smoking are both effective methods for migraine headaches, especially when used early in the course of the migraine headache. It’s been found that when users with classical migraine headaches vape or smoke Cannabis at the onset of the migraine headaches aura phase, it can stop the migraine headaches progression (meaning it stops it from getting worse). 

Recommended Cannabis Chemotypes for Migraine Headaches 

When using Cannabis orally for migraine headaches, any THC-rich strain of Cannabis is recommended.  

When Vaping or smoking Cannabis, stimulating sativa chemotypes are recommended and more appropriate at the early onset of or aura phase of the migraine headache. After the onset of the migraine, heavier indica strains, such as purples and true kush varieties seems to be most effective for their combination of sedative and analgesic effects

Popular Cannabis Varieties for Migraine Headaches 

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