What is a Migraine?
When your head is pounding, the first thing you probably ask yourself is: Could this be a migraine? “It’s very common for people to think that a migraine is a tension, sinus, or allergy headache. Migraines can be episodic (you get them sporadically) or chronic (you get them 15 or more days a month for more than three months).
A migraine often causes severe, throbbing pain in the head—sometimes on just one side and sometimes on both sides—that lasts anywhere from roughly four to 72 hours. What distinguishes it from other headaches is that the pain is usually accompanied by vomiting or nausea and extreme sensitivity to lights and sounds.
Migraine vs. Headache?
Research shows 90 percent of self-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraines. People don’t realize their intense headaches are actually migraines!
Prodrome and Post-drome are two phases that may come before a migraine headache, and one that may come after. You may also not experience these phases each time you have a migraine. Prodrome phase can hit up to 24 hours before the headache starts. It can include thirstiness, frequent yawning, food cravings, mood changes, or constipation. Post-drome occurs after the headache dissipates, some people feel drained, confused, or dizzy (kind of like a hangover).
How are migraines currently treated?
Migraines are a fairly common condition, affecting 5-15% of the population and more commonly in females. Common symptoms include throbbing headaches, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to lights and sounds. This can last a few hours to days, and can be debilitating for patients.
Treatments usually involve medications that reduce the effects during attacks, or try and prevent them from happening in the first place. Standard treatments are moderately effective, but may cause various side effects.
A primary care physician or neurologist can prescribe a preventative medication to help ward off migraines. In fact, the FDA approved a groundbreaking new drug called erenumab (Aimovig) in May 2018, so patients have more options than ever.
Other non-drug remedies are also options such as physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, seeing a chiropractor, Botox injections, tinted glasses, biofeedback, or wearing a headband-like device that uses electrodes (this is called transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation or t-SNS).
How can cannabis oil and/or CBD oil assist with managing migraines?
Medicinal cannabis is still considered an experimental medication, and its effects vary from person to person.
However, the evidence for migraine sufferers suggests that medicinal cannabis may help reduce how often they occur, as well as how bad they are when they happen.
A system in the body called the endocannabinoid system (or ECS for short) has been found to be involved with helping the body keep nerves and chemicals in the body in check. It’s suspected that some conditions may be due to an imbalance in this system, or that for some conditions this ECS may play an important role in how the condition or symptoms play out.
For example in migraine, there is some evidence that the ECS may play a role in controlling the blood vessel function in the brain, and this may play an important role in how migraines work.
Plant-based cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis) affect how this ECS works, and can therefore affect symptoms of migraine.
There is some promising evidence that cannabis can be useful for treatment of migraines.
A recent study* looking at patients with migraine headaches as their main issue, found that there was significant improvement for many of them. Patients at this specialty medicinal cannabis clinic found both a reduction in the number of migraines per month, as well as medicinal cannabis being effective as both a preventative medicine as well as one that stopped migraines during attacks.
- Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): Can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions? (PubMed)
- Effects of anandamide in migraine: data from an animal model (PubMed)
- Cannabinoids and hallucinogens for headache (PubMed)
- The endocannabinoid system and migraine (PubMed)
- Variations in the cannabinoid receptor 1 gene predispose to migraine (PubMed)