Can Medical Marijuana Help with Migraines and Other Headache Disorders?
Chronic pain is the number one reason for use among medical marijuana patients nationwide. This type of ongoing, often debilitating pain is associated with a broad range of medical conditions, from joint pain and inflammation to neuropathic (nerve) pain, often seen in patients with diabetes.
Because cannabis-based medicines have proven effective for reducing chronic pain, scientists are now looking into the benefits of mmj for headache disorders, primarily migraine headaches and a related phenomenon known as cluster headaches.
What are migraine headaches?
Migraine headaches are essentially super headaches. Unlike your run-of-the-mill headaches, migraines typically last from four to 72 hours if not treated and come with a handful of unpleasant side effects. These include extreme pain, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, and heightened sensitivity to light and sound.
According to the Mayo Clinic, migraines are often preceded by warning signs such as mood changes, neck stiffness, and increased thirst and urination. As the migraine progresses, patients may experience a tingling sensation in their limbs prior to the characteristic pain. Individuals have also reported vision problems, weakness, and trouble speaking. Following a migraine attack, patients may feel drained and disoriented for up to 24 hours.
What are cluster headaches?
During a cluster headache attack, a person experiences several small but painful headaches within minutes of each other. Although they don’t last as long as migraines—generally about an hour per cluster period—they are often more severe.
Whereas migraine pain is normally described as a throbbing or pulsing sensation, patients with cluster headaches describe a sharp, stabbing pain, often in just one eye or on one side of the face. Unlike migraines, cluster headaches often strike without warning and can occur several times throughout the day.
How are headache disorders generally treated?
Standard treatment options for headache disorders fall into two main categories: preventative therapy and symptom relief.
Preventative therapy includes both lifestyle changes (including massage therapy, muscle relaxation exercises, and getting plenty of sleep) and medications such as antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, cardiovascular medications, and a newly approved class of drugs called erenumab-aooe that target blood vessel dilation and inflammation.
For pain and other symptoms of headache disorders, the options include over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen or stronger medications such as opioids, anti-nausea drugs, triptans, ergots, and steroids.
For cluster headache sufferers, oxygen therapy, anesthetic nasal drops, and synthetic versions of the brain hormone somatostatin have also proven effective.
Why is medical marijuana a viable alternative for headache sufferers?
Like most prescription medications, those administered for headache disorders are often accompanied by unwanted side effects and/or contraindications that can further impact a patient’s health and quality of life.
Cannabis is now seen as a viable alternative for people with headache disorders because of its ability to provide a therapeutic benefit without the debilitating side effects or the need to take several different drugs to achieve relief. In fact, research shows medicinal cannabis is more effective than prescription medication at relieving headache-related pain.
Cannabis may also help reduce the number of headaches people experience. Findings from a University of Colorado study involving more than 100 adult migraine sufferers revealed that “the frequency of migraine headache was decreased with medical marijuana use.”
Similarly, a 2017 clinical review titled The Use of Cannabis for Headache Disorders looked at the relationship between the body’s endocannabinoid system and the onset and progression of migraine headaches before concluding that, “it appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”
Research shows cannabis may also provide significant relief from the pain and discomfort of cluster headaches, especially if the patient suffered migraines as a child. One study in particular focused on a patient who was unable to find relief using standard treatment methods but instead benefitted from the use of recreational marijuana to reduce the number of cluster headache attacks.
And, in a study involving 139 adult cluster headache patients, more than 25 percent of the participants reported that medical cannabis use was effective at treating their attacks.
Cannabis helps with more than just headache pain and frequency.
In addition to the severe pain and recurrent attacks associated with headache disorders, patients are more likely to experience nausea, trouble sleeping, muscle weakness and discomfort, and depression and anxiety.
(You can probably see where this is going.)
Cannabis has long been used to ease nausea and vomiting and is often recommended for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Likewise, countless medical marijuana patients report they are able to sleep better, have fewer muscle aches, and experience an improvement in mood thanks to frequent mmj use.
Another thing to consider is new evidence of the link between inflammation and headache disorders, specifically inflammation of the blood vessels surrounding the brain. Because extensive research has linked the beneficial properties of cannabinoids with reduced inflammation in a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, it stands to reason they may also provide relief for patients with headache disorders.
Considering mmj for chronic migraines or headache pain?
You’re not alone.
According to the World Health Organization, headache disorders affect roughly half of the global population; that’s around three and a half billion people. If you are among them, you’ve likely heard about the potential for medical marijuana to minimize the pain, severity, and frequency of your headache episodes.
How do you get approved to use mmj for chronic migraines, cluster headaches, and similar disorders? The first step is a visit to your health care practitioner.
Here in Arizona, you’ll need to ask your doctor for a written certification recommending the use of medical marijuana before completing your online application for an mmj patient card. Once you receive your card, plan your visit to Desert Rose Dispensary and be sure to set aside plenty of time to go over everything with one of our knowledgeable budtenders.
Desert Rose can help you get back to living your best life.
We understand that few things can be more disrupting than chronic migraines and headache pain, which is why we make it a priority to listen to our patients and help them find the best mmj treatment options for their needs.
The potential for medical marijuana to provide relief for chronic pain continues to gain attention in the medical community, with cannabis advocates sharing their experiences and even recommending their favorite cannabis strains and products for headache pain.
Stop by the dispensary any day of the week from 8:00AM to 10:00PM or call us at 623.516.7881 and we’ll do our best to get you on the path to feeling better. Here at Desert Rose, our patients come first—and we’ve got the best dispensary deals in town to prove it!