Ultimate Guide to Treating Headaches with Cannabis | cannabisMD

The Ultimate Guide to Treating Headaches with Cannabis

The Ultimate headache and cannabis treatment guide

Understanding your headache is the first step in treating it properly. Image Credit: By Volodymyr Tverdokhlib on shutterstock

Many types of headaches are so severe that they interfere with our daily lives — these include tension, cluster, or migraine headaches. The most common headache treatments are over-the-counter pain relievers or opioid, but according to CBS News, recent research suggests that treating headaches with CBD oil is a promising new option.

Whether you suffer from chronic headaches or only experience them once in a while, proper treatment starts with knowing what type of headache, triggers, and relief options you have.

Step One: Determine What Type Of Headache You Have

Different types of headaches come with varying symptoms and levels of severity and are often easily self-diagnosed, but talking with your doctor is always a good idea to be sure you’re on the right path to treatment.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache which affect women more than men but 80 percent of adults suffer from them, and this can become a chronic condition with symptoms worsening over time, so the safety and side effects of any treatment you use for your tension headaches are important.

The cause of tension headaches is still unknown, but doctors have identified symptoms to help you recognize tension headaches versus other types of head pain:

  • Gradual onset of the headache
  • Pain is usually on both sides
  • Pain is dull or feels like a vice around the head
  • Pain may also affect the back part of the head or neck
  • Pain is typically mild to moderate, but not severe

CBD has been shown to relieve pain, as well as inflammation that plays a role in headache disorders, but its most effective when used along THC, which has more powerful pain relief effects. When combined, CBD is necessary to reduce the adverse effects of THC, which also means more THC can be used for stronger relief. Along with this, chronic headache sufferers can sleep better when they treat their symptoms with CBD and THC together.

Cluster Headaches

If you experience a grouping of short but intense headaches which come about suddenly, you may be suffering from cluster headaches which can occur for a couple weeks to multiple months or longer in men and women and typically start before age 30.

The main sensory nerve in the face, called the trigeminal nerve, is activated during cluster headaches causing throbbing or burning pain behind one eye––and can radiate to other parts of the face––but the cause of cluster headaches is still unknown, though they’re often mistaken for a symptom of allergies in autumn or spring.

Cannabis has been proven to stop treatment-resistant cluster headaches in some patients, and THC and CBD both have potential treatment benefits because of their psychotropic effects and anti-inflammatory effects, respectively.

Migraine Headaches

Migraines cause severe, debilitating pain on one or both sides of the head that can last anywhere from four hours to several days, and involve other symptoms like sensory sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting. Common triggers could be stress, lack of food, alcohol, hormonal changes, lack of sleep and environment factors like allergens, and learning your own triggers can be helpful in managing your symptoms.

If you suffer from migraines, you could be prescribed medications such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, or even Botox, but if you’re seeking a treatment that’s less invasive to the body than prescriptions and chemicals, cannabis has been proven to reduce migraine pain and frequency.

THC could potentially be a more effective pain reliever than opioids in acute pain, according to Current Neuropsychopharmacology, but you would want to choose treatments involving a high amount of CBD as well to boost THC’s therapeutic benefits and counteract any adverse effects. As a bonus, CBD and THC can promote sleep for migraine sufferers who need rest while battling long-term head pain, or as an alternative to sedatives that some patients are prescribed to “sleep off the pain”.

Step Two: Choose Your CBD

CBD and THC are compounds extracted from cannabis and made into oil concentrates — which contain just one of these cannabinoids or both — and they are a natural, non-toxic way to treat headaches with various methods to choose from, and the best method for you depends on your personal health and the benefits you’re seeking in your treatment.

Edible cannabis comes in candies, capsules, or baked goods, and can be effective when headaches have to be managed around the clock, like cluster headaches or chronic migraines. Edibles tend to take a few hours to reach peak effect, but the effects can last up to 24 hours. Typically found in drops or sprays, sublingual CBD or THC oil is a fast way to get cannabis into your system because it’s placed under the tongue and is absorbed straight into the bloodstream, and the effects from this method usually last about 4-6 hours.

If you need quick headache relief, vaping is the fastest method that will have you feeling better in minutes and effects will last for 2-3 hours––and since using a vape pen is simple, you can administer cannabis oil as often as you need as the effects wear off of each dose. Topical CBD treatments including skin creams and lotions, or even bath bombs and massage oils have shown to be effective in treating localized pain since these are applied directly to the skin, like your temples or neck muscles, and absorbed into the affected area.

Step Three: Supplement with Essential Oils

While essential oils are studied even less in the healthcare realm than cannabis, there is research that says they’re effective for various health issues, like improving mood or relieving pain. One particular study in the Clinical Journal of Pain showed how an elderly woman treated her pain symptoms with topical peppermint oil, and a later study showed how geranium oil had the same pain relieving effect.

Other essential oil varieties that could hold potential benefits for headache pain are lavender and green apple.

Because of these findings, essential oils could be potential remedies to use in conjunction with cannabis or CBD oil in treating headache pain, but because essential oils are not standardized, you should talk to your doctor and use them with caution.

When To Call A Doctor

Most types of headaches can typically be managed at home, however, there are some headaches that should be examined by a doctor for a diagnosis, and if you think you may be experiencing cluster headaches or any other type of new or unfamiliar headache disorder, be sure to get a proper evaluation.

If you want an effective remedy to help fight your headaches, or to use safely with your prescriptions, consider cannabis, CBD, or a combination of these to ensure you’re receiving the adequate relief you need — and review the anecdotal evidence behind choosing cannabis treatments over pharmaceuticals.

The content on cannabisMD is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Megan Solga
Megan Solga
Megan Solga is an international educator and mental health advocate with a background in medicinal cannabis research. She enjoys whiskey, bluegrass, and life in the mountains.

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