Let's Talk About Headaches & Migraines.
Headaches By The Numbers
of people experiencing headache reported cannabis helped them.
is the typical duration of a migraine, though they can last up to 3 days.
of individuals self-reported that inhaling cannabis reduced their headache severity.
of Canadians are affected by migraines.
Level of Evidence: Empirical
Apothecare has ranked Headaches & Migraines on the middle level of the evidence pyramid. Many of the studies assessing cannabis for the treatment of headaches are self-report surveys which contain a lot of bias.
Cannabis and Headaches & Migraines
There is growing evidence suggesting that cannabis can be an alternative option to managing the symptoms of migraines and headaches. There are several types of headaches with different symptoms and severity.
Some of the more common forms of headaches are discussed below: Tension type headaches are the most common and are generally what most people experience. These headaches produce symptoms of a pressure band circling around the temples, forehead, and back of the head which can last hours to days. Tension type headaches are chronic if they occur at least 15 days out of the month for more than 6 months. For patients who experience chronic headaches, they may need to take daily medication to reduce the frequency.
Cluster headaches are the most painful type of headache. They present as excruciating pain usually on one side of the head and can also cause a blocked nose with watery eyes. This type of headache is much shorter in duration compared to other headaches, lasting between 20 minutes to 2 hours.
Migraines are generally more painful than tension type headaches but less painful than cluster headaches. They can cause light and smell sensitivity, throbbing pain of the head, face and neck, sinus congestion, dizziness and nausea. Some people also experience a visual aura before the onset of a migraine. The aura is a sensory disturbance that ranges from seeing sparks and zig zags to a tingling sensation on one side of the body or an inability to speak clearly. The aura can serve as a warning sign that a migraine may occur.
There are some interesting findings from the literature about cannabis and the treatment of headaches and migraines. These are:
- One study found participants reporting that inhaling cannabis is the most effective way to manage their headaches or migraines. Additionally, sublingual (under the tongue) administration was found to be the next best method for managing their headache or migraine.
- Common over-the-counter products like Advil and Tylenol for headache use may result in individuals experiencing more headaches if they are used too often. This phenomenon is known as “medication overuse headache”. Interestingly “medication overuse headache” is not seen with cannabis use.
- One study’s observational results showed that individuals who experienced the most severe headaches or migraines had the largest relief from cannabis compared to those that had mild headaches.
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Is cannabis right for you?
- A history or family history of psychosis in the family
- Currently taking a blood thinner such as Warfarin
- Reduced liver function
- History of addiction
- A complex medication regimen (cannabis can interfere with the metabolism of several classes of medications)
- Sedating medications such as benzodiazepines (such as lorazepam) and/or opioids (such as Percocet)
Contact A Pharmacist
What cannabis product can I use for headaches & migraines?
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- Tension headache. Stanford Health Care (SHC) – Stanford Medical Center. (2017, September 11). Retrieved April 3, 2022, from https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/brain-and-nerves/headache/types/tension-headache.html
- Cluster headache. Stanford Health Care (SHC) – Stanford Medical Center. (2017, September 11). Retrieved April 3, 2022, from https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/brain-and-nerves/headache/types/cluster-headache.html
- Migraine headaches. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved April 3, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/headache/migraine-headaches
- Migraine with aura: Types, symptoms & treatments: AMF. American Migraine Foundation. (2021, August 11). Retrieved April 3, 2022, from https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraine-aura/