Science and anecdotal evidence seem to agree that marijuana can relieve migraines and their associated symptoms. But what about tension headaches? The ones that pop up without warning and make you feel like your head’s being squeezed in a vice? Can cannabis help with these types of headaches, too?
Why Do Headaches Happen in the First Place?
Tight muscles in your head or neck can trigger headaches. Chemical imbalances in your brain, blood vessels or nerves can also cause them. The physical pain from headaches can also start from inflamed tissue and blood vessels in different cranial regions. The release of nerve-stimulating neurochemicals also causes pain signals in the central nervous system, resulting in headache pain.
There are several different types of headaches, with many influencing factors playing a role. The two most common kinds of headaches are:
Conditions that can cause headaches include:
- Tense or stressful situations
- Dental complications
- Caffeine and caffeine withdrawal
- Hormonal changes
- Sinus problems and flu
Tension Headaches vs. Migraines
Tension headaches and migraines share a few similarities as well as some differences. Tension headaches are a regular occurrence for many people. While migraines are also fairly common, they occur less frequently than tension headaches do. Both conditions may occur at intensities ranging from mild to severe and can be felt on one or both sides of the head—though tension headaches typically affect both sides. Meanwhile, migraines are usually more severe and are often accompanied by symptoms including:
- Increased sensitivity to smells, sounds and light
- An increase in pain with even the mildest physical activity
Why Cannabis May Be a Successful Treatment for Tension Headaches
Medical marijuana is especially effective in treating tension headaches, which cause pain in the neck, forehead and back of the head. Headaches are especially bothersome when they become chronic and occur more than 15 days in a month. High-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) strains of marijuana can actively repress headaches that arise due to emotional or physcial stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep and even a head injury—and they can effectively work to relieve pain. Meanwhile, cannabis strains high in cannabidiol (CBD) can help reduce pain and any accompanying inflammation as well as muscle tension.
Although over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen act as anti-inflammatory pain relievers, they can lead to dependency with long-term use. These medications can also have adverse effects on the stomach and kidneys, especially when taken without food.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is a low-risk alternative medicine that also provides proven anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief. The cannabinoids found in cannabis—primarily THC and CBD—interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help reduce pain and inflammation resulting from tension headaches. And they can help promote relaxation, reversing the tension that triggered the headache in the first place.
Best Cannabis Strains to Ease Headaches
Nuken: The Nuken strain is born and bred right here in Canada. It’s a strong indica strain that will leave you just functional enough to enjoy the calming peace as your headache subsides.
Hindu Kush: A pure indica strain bearing undertones of sandalwood, Hindu Kush delivers a powerful relaxing effect. It also relieves pain and stress-related muscle tightness, perfect for easing tension headaches.
Bubble Gum: This classic sativa-dominant hybrid strain is a fan favourite: Bubble Gum won multiple awards at various Cannabis Cups in the ’90s. With a sweet smell and slight high, this strain is great for relieving headaches.
Green Crack: Green Crack is an energizing sativa strain that will get you through a busy day when you’re suffering from a pain of a nagging headache. This fruity-flavoured cannabis strain is optimal for fighting fatigue and stress.
OG Kush: This hybrid strain can deliver a strong sense of calm. With earthy pine and lemon scents, OG Kush promotes pain-free relaxation.
The Best Way to Consume Marijuana for Headaches
If you feel a headache coming on, you need cannabis that acts fast. For this reason, it’s best to vape or smoke cannabis to experience near-immediate relief. You can also apply a topical cannabis oil to the base of the skull if you’re experiencing pressure there.
Cannabis may be effective in treating your tension headache. Keep in mind that certain strains may have a psychoactive effect on your mind and body that may result in headaches or intensify the headache you already have. If it seems like a certain marijuana strain isn’t producing positive results, ingest a CBD product to mitigate that feeling and try another strain. With a little trial and error, you’ll likely find a strain that will help you get the relief you need.
Photo credit: Nano Anderson