Medical Marijuana and Migraines: An Effective Treatment Option

If you’re a migraine sufferer, you know how difficult the condition can be to treat and we will outline how medical marijuana may be an effective treatment option.

Migraines often last for hours or even days, and the pain can be severe enough to induce vomiting. People who suffer migraines may have visual problems such as blind spots or flashes. They can even experience numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. 

Severe migraines often occurs in four stages

Prodome

The prodrome phase often involves changes in the body that occur for one to two days before the migraine. Some of these changes may include:

  • Mood changes and/or food cravings.
  • Fluid retention.
  • An increase in urination or constipation.
  • A stiff neck or joints. 
  • Increased yawning. 

Aura

Auras can occur right before or during the migraine. They are often unique to the individual and usually build up over a short period of time and can last up to an hour. 

Examples of migraine aura may include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs, weakness in the body.
  • Vision loss or disturbances such as bright lights or blind spots.
  • Difficulty with speech.

Migraine Attack

Migraine attacks often last from between 4 hours and 3 days if not treated and can involve:

  • Severe, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • A sensitivity to light, smell and often sound.

Postdrome

Following a migraine, you may feel exhausted or drained for up to a day; this is called the postdrome phase. You may also experience residual head pain.

man suffering from migraine

Migraine Causes (Triggers)

Migraine triggers are often tied to a sufferer’s individual physiology. They can be different for everyone.

Some common migraine triggers are:

  • Hormonal changes; for example, changes in estrogen during the menstrual cycle. Many women find they experience migraines before or during their menstrual periods. Oral contraceptives also tend to affect migraines, decreasing them for many women.
  • Foods or drinks such as processed foods and aged or smoked cheeses, alcohol and caffeine. Food additives like aspartame and MSG can also trigger migraines.
  • Physical exertion such as sexual activity or exercise, changes in sleep patterns. Stress can also put strain on the body, bringing on migraines.
  • Medications such as vasodilators or oral contraceptives.
  • Weather changes or shifts in barometric pressure.
So this is the real question: can medical marijuana help with migraines? Let’s dive in.
can medical marijuana help with migraines

Medical Marijuana and Migraines

Marijuana contains natural compounds known as cannabinoids. Two of the most well-known compounds in marijuana are:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD): a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant known for easing pain. 
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): a compound known to have psychoactive effects. THC is the compound in marijuana which may cause a ‘high’ feeling. 

The human body has cannabinoid receptors located in the brain, the GI tract and other areas. When cannabinoids in medical marijuana bind with our cannabinoid receptors, they help to soothe pain signals such as migraines. 

Cannabinoids can also have other effects on the body, such as easing nausea and vomiting. Studies have shown medical marijuana to be helpful for anxiety and muscle spasms. 

Is Medical Marijuana Effective for Migraines?

Several studies have addressed the use of medical cannabis for migraines. There have been some promising results. 

A study published in the Journal of Pain found migraine severity reduced by up to 50% in human subjects. The University of Colorado reported a 40% success rate for migraine treatment. Out of 121 participants, 85% reported fewer attacks per month. 

Another Washington State University study reported reduced migraine severity of up to 49%

woman tries to work through her migraine

Medical Marijuana: Is it Safe?

Up to now, no serious concerns are on record for using CBD in moderation. But one thing to be aware of is potential interactions with other medications. Never try medical cannabis or any other drug without first speaking to your doctor. 

While side effects are rare and generally not serious, they may include:

  • Fatigue, drowsiness or a dizzy feeling.
  • Dry eyes and/or mouth.
  • An increase in heart rate.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Paranoia or hallucinations.

If you’re a chronic migraine sufferer and are interested in medical marijuana, speak with your doctor. Migraine is a complex condition and CBD may prove to be a wonderful addition to your treatment options. If you would like to speak to one of our doctors here in the state of Colorado, click here and book a medical card appointment.

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