While we may not all suffer from migraines, chances are everyone at some point in their life has experienced a tension headache. You’re probably familiar with tension headache symptoms: pressure in your forehead, neck or the back of your head; aches, pain or tightness in your head, neck or shoulders.
Most people tend to pop a few Advil or Tylenol and go about their day when they have a headache. But it’s possible to overuse over-the-counter drugs—and sometimes this can cause even more headaches.
So, if you’re looking for an alternative to the usual headache treatments, you may want to consider cannabis. Here are our top three Q&As about how marijuana can help ease tension headaches. These Q&As come from our Answers page, where members of the HelloMD community get answers to their cannabis questions from qualified doctors, nurses and cannabis industry experts. Head over there if you still have questions about how marijuana could help you when you’ve got a headache that just won’t quit.
Q: Is marijuana good for tension headaches?
What type of marijuana products should I use and how often?
Answer: @drolson Yes, cannabis can be an excellent medication for tension headaches but if you don’t deal with the origin of the tension, your symptoms could manifest as a bigger medical problem later.
Consider using a topical cannabidiol, or CBD-dominant salve on your neck or anywhere you feel the muscles are tense. You can reapply the salve every 10 minutes until the pain resolves. You could also try a CBD-dominant 4:1, spray-in-the-mouth tincture that should help with a headache. Or you may want to vaporize a CBD-dominant vape pen, such as one with the strain AC/DC. This way, it will be in your bloodstream in one to two minutes giving you relief in approximately 10 minutes.
I think tension headaches respond well to a daily dose of CBD because you learn to deal with stress much better taking CBD-rich cannabis. At first, you must dose CBD frequently to get rid of the symptoms and then you can start spacing out the frequency of your CBD doses. Because if you only take one dose of CBD per 24 hours, you may be imprinting on your nerves that you want the pain to return, so please, treat your symptoms frequently to get the pain under control before you start to space out your CBD dose. Too much THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) may increase pain especially if due to tension.
I also encourage reading the book or listening to the audiotape, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle to get in the present moment since the present moment is the only time we experience joy.
Q: Can anyone recommend 1 or 2 good strains to prevent headaches?
They aren't migraines, just tension headaches. I also suffer from a large degree of anxiety concerning them, so need something for evening time that would help me relax. As an additional piece of information, I tend to be sensitive to psychoactivity; THC makes me paranoid and then I really cannot relax.
Answer: @drjacquelynlew Hello! Sounds like you would be a good candidate for cannabidiol, or CBD, which is non-psychoactive and can help decrease both headaches and anxiety. I would recommend using CBD in a vaporized form, starting with 1–2 puffs. I typically recommend CBD in a 20:1 ratio with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis) because a small amount of THC helps the CBD work.
Cannabis can also be applied topically on the temples when you have a headache. Topical forms of cannabis, such as balms or salves, are usually non-psychoactive. If this doesn't quite help, you may want to seek a more in-depth consultation from us or an evaluation from your regular health provider. Best of luck!
Q: How does cannabis act to stop headaches?
My neurologist has told me never to take aspirin, and Tylenol rarely, because it acts by slowly compromising the nerves. I’m 79 and had one very small stroke four years ago. Sometimes I still feel it clearly where it occurred in my head.
Answer: @drblair Hemp CBD is effective for many people. At 79 you will not need much to get relief, perhaps 5–10 mg. CBD will not make you high or cause any impairment. And, it protects against stroke and heart disease. Preclinical studies showed that CBD given up to five hours after a stroke provided major protection against the complications of stroke and brain injury.
Photo credit: Maaike Nienhuis