Medical Cannabis for Headaches
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Perhaps one of the most common disorders that almost 96% of the population on the planet is going to experience at least once in their lifetime. Yes, we are talking about headaches. There are more than 150 types of headaches, and most of them have varying symptoms. However, only a few are quite common and recurring for the general public. But let’s talk about the question we all are thinking about at the moment, can medical marijuana help with headache symptoms?

Prominent causes and symptoms of headaches

Headaches can be described as specific pains that are caused due to mixed signals being received from either the brain, nerves, or nearby blood vessels. Environmental and psychological factors can also cause headaches.

But apart from these, lifestyle choices do extremely affect the span and recurrence of headaches. These lifestyle choices include,

  • Alcohol consumption, especially red wine
  • Periodic stress
  • Sleeping problems or lack of sleep
  • Poor posture or positioning
  • Certain foods, including processed foods and meat that have a high ratio of nitrites
  • Exercise and sexual activity
  • Skipped meals and dehydration
  • Hot baths or weather
  • Bright lights
  • High altitude
  • Coughing

Also, the following are some prominent symptoms of headaches that mostly occur in the majority of people affected,

  • Dizziness
  • Pressure in the head
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sharp, stabbing, or throbbing head pain that is either widespread or localized
  • Pain in the eyes

Headaches types and treatments

As mentioned earlier, there are more than 150 different types of headaches, but only a few of them have known causes. Let’s discuss three types of headaches that are quite common among the majority of the human population.

Tension headaches are super common but occur infrequently among people. This type of headache is characterized by a squeezing, dull pressure on either side of the brain which can even reach the middle in some cases. The headache has a mild to moderate pain level. The most common cause behind it includes fatigue, tension, or any disorder within the muscles or joints of the neck and jaw region.

Migraines are not as common as tension headaches and not many people have to face periodic migraine sessions, however, the pain associated with migraines is quite severe and can even have a long-lasting disabling effect. Migraines are characterized by a throbbing pain behind the eye and temple region which can progress back to the rear end of the brain.

Cluster headaches are also not very common but do have a very high pain level. Unlike migraines that tend to occur in women more than men, cluster headaches are two to three times more likely to occur in men.

As each of the mentioned headaches has its distinct pain features and cause of occurrence, the way these headaches are treated also differs. Tension headaches are more likely to be treated with an over-the-counter medicine like aspirin or in severe cases, the doctor can even prescribe a muscle relaxant.

The treatment of migraines on the other hand is quite prolonged and extensive. The pain associated with migraines is usually treated by NSAIDs or a combination drug like Excedrin. Triptans are also recommended by doctors if every other therapeutic option fails. People who have recurring migraine attacks usually take prophylactic medicines including beta blockers, antiepileptics, antidepressants, or even botox injections in severe cases to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraine attacks.

Cluster headaches are usually treated by following two approaches. The first is the immediate and effective relief from the pain attack which is usually achieved by oxygen therapy or a nasal spray of sumatriptan. The second approach involves medications that can aid in lowering the recurrence of cluster headaches.

Cannabinoids and headaches

The endocannabinoid system is the central part of the central nervous system (CNS) and the body. The complex signaling system is also responsible for maintaining body homeostasis, memory, mood, and even pain receptors. This makes cannabinoid-rich products such as CBD a great way of treating ECS disorders including certain types of headaches and their recurring symptoms.

Impact of cannabinoids on headaches

The Journal of Pain reported back in 2019 that using medical cannabis is an effective way of treating headaches, specifically migraines. Studies also revealed that patients reported a reduction of almost 50% in their migraine symptoms. Men have specifically experienced an increased effectiveness once medical cannabis was included in their treatment. This also nullifies the theory of an increase in headaches due to excessive use of cannabis.

The current literature was further reviewed in 2021 which concluded that the use of medical cannabis ‘was effective in decreasing daily analgesic intake, dependence, and level of pain intensity’. Many patients also showed a long-term improvement in their overall health and headache-associated symptoms.

To help you further understand the impact of cannabis on headaches, let’s discuss the specific impact of cannabis on two of the most prominent symptoms associated with headaches.

Symptoms of Headaches: Chronic Pain

For patients who suffer from periodic headaches, management is the main focus of their treatment. In most cases, patients are prescribed some over-the-counter medicine for effective pain relief. These medications do aid with pain management for the time being, but the long-term side effects can’t be neglected.

On the other hand, the analgesic properties of medical cannabis allow active pain relief with no long-term side effects.

Symptoms of Headaches: Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are two headache-associated symptoms that are pretty common among patients who experience severe recurring headaches. Medical cannabis is known for its anti-emetic abilities and this is something that has been scientifically proven since the 1970’s. This makes medical cannabis a great remedy for handling symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

Final Note

Over the years, the role of medical cannabis in treating traditional medical disorders has expanded exponentially. The role of cannabis in the treatment of headaches is a clear example of this. Active pain relief, a blockade for recurring headaches, and considerable relief from the constant sensation of nausea and vomiting are some of the pros associated with using medical marijuana for headaches.

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