Everyone has experienced headaches at least once in their lifetime. For some, it might be a recurring phenomenon while for some it is rare. Milder headaches are bearable and may not disrupt one’s routine. But if you have migraine headaches, you know that the agonizing pain is a lot awful and inexplicable.
Migraines are generally explained as a severe throbbing or excruciating pain pulsating through one side of the head. You might have come across a migraine sufferer who can be perceivably pressing on anyone or either side of the head expecting the pain to recede. They are people who are easily susceptible to fatigue and can be affected by certain foods, strong smells, weather changes, lack of sleep, loud noises, bright or flickering lights, stress, anxiety, and whatnot. These multiple triggers in and around make them succumb to weakness as a part of avoiding pain.
Most of the afflicted people are capable to deduce the warning symptoms before the wave of lashing throbs hit hard on their heads. This enables them to prevent a full-blown migraine attack by acting on the signals and allows them to keep away from factors such as allergies, lights or stress which could become possible triggers.
Migraine: What is it and how is it different from headaches?
If you actually have a migraine and misconceive it to be just another strong headache, then the consequences you have to deal with will be almost equal to that of a nightmare. Therefore it is very important to understand the difference between a migraine attack and a headache.
Headaches may vary in duration, severity, and cause. It need not to occur by displaying a recognizable pattern of symptoms as migraine does. A variety of factors including head injury, infections or other medical conditions can introduce headaches.
On the other hand, a migraine is basically a moderate-to-severe form of headache that mostly occurs on one side of the head accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Certain factors involved in triggering attacks in those predisposed to migraines. The prevalence and burden of migraine or severe headaches are reported in roughly 1 out of every 6 Americans and tends to affect people aged 15 to 55.
Although all migraines are not of the same kind, it includes some typical symptoms, some of which are:
- moderate to severe pain, usually confined to one side of the head but capable of occurring on either side of the head
- severe throbbing or pulsating pain
- increasing pain during physical activity or while straining
- inability to perform regular activities as a result of disorientation
- sickly feeling and vomiting
- increased sensitivity to light and sound which can be relieved by lying quietly in a darkened room
Some people also experience other symptoms such as sweating, temperature changes, stomach ache, and diarrhea.
Although doctors are unascertained about the exact cause of the migraine headaches, researchers believe that the spontaneous over-activity and abnormal amplification in pain in the pathways of the brainstem lead to migraine. They opine that the primary neural cause is due to the innervations involving the feedback loops. In other terms, the activation of the nerve causes the release of certain chemicals which causes blood vessels in the lining of the brain to swell. The inflammation and pain generated is a result of the release of neurotransmitters. The prerequisite to develop and test drugs that could be targeted to prevent and interrupt migraine attacks explains the need to understand the primordial cause.
Since the pathophysiology of migraine is yet to be fully understood, there is no absolute cure endowed yet. In general, there are mainly three main approaches to treat migraines; acute, preventive and complementary. Acute and Preventive methods of treatment involve antidepressants and other medications to prevent the attacks or relieve the symptoms during an attack.
Complementary treatment is a therapy that utilizes no drugs but instead focuses on lifestyle changes, behavioral changes and other complementary treatments that can prevent the triggering of attacks. Acupuncture, Botulinum Toxin, Massage, Yoga, Aerobic exercise, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Meditation, Relaxation training, Hypnosis, biofeedback mechanism and other similar therapies designed to reduce daily discomfort may reduce the number and severity of migraine attacks.
Keeping track of personal triggers can also provide useful information for avoiding triggers, need for lifestyle changes which can include dietary considerations, regularly scheduled meals with adequate hydration, avoiding certain medications and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
How can CBD treat migraine symptoms?
CBD is one of the most hyped elements that has taken the US by storm. Cannabidiol is an active ingredient in the cannabis plant which is becoming increasingly available in dispensaries and with online retailers claiming pain and inflammation reduction. If you are living with migraines, you also might have noticed its gaining popularity.
Currently, there are no published studies or scientific evidence that examine the effect of CBD as a single ingredient on migraines, but there is potential in using CBD for migraines. Some claim that marijuana reduces the symptoms of headaches. Although there is no proof that CBD can be used as an effective treatment option, for people who have not yet availed an effective treatment for their migraines, it may be worth considering.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) consists of endocannabinoids produced by your body that bind to cannabinoid receptors as well as cannabinoid receptor proteins found in the central nervous system and brain. It plays an important role in bodily functions such as digestion, pain, appetite, and mood. When ingested, CBD binds itself to the receptors in the body. This compound of CBD influences the way ECS regulates bodily functions, including pain control, thereby suggesting its effect.
Whether you are using CBD or other conventional remedies, the treatment plan will usually depend on:
- your age
- how frequently migraine strikes
- the type of migraine you have
- how severe or painful they are, based on how long they last, how much pain you have, etc.
- whether they include nausea or vomiting, and other symptoms
- other health conditions you may have and other medications you may take
Why is CBD better than other pharmaceuticals?
Although there are ongoing debates about the merits and demerits of cannabis and its related products, the use of the plant’s medicinal element is not a new discovery. Even as the studies progress, the bottom line points out that there are no or minimal side effects of CBD and CBD oil. This is the reason why people are opting for CBD to treat pain as opposed to over-the-counter or addictive prescriptions.
CBD safety profile is already established profusely. However, some knowledge gaps need to be closed by additional clinical trials so that it can become a full-fledged well tested pharmaceutical compound.
Be sure to use a CBD dosage calculator to ensure you are getting enough CBD to help with your migraines.
What do the researchers say?
Dr. Stephen Silberstein, director of the Headache Center at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, says that CBD can be a viable topical option for patients with joint and muscle pain associated with migraines. But if it is to be consumed as a part of acute treatment for migraine, it is essential to ensure the purity of the product. Illegal forms of CBD spiked with THC could prove to be harmful to the patient.
The result of a 2016 study indicates that the frequency of migraine headaches was decreased with the use of medical marijuana. More prospective studies are required to determine and understand the effects of medical marijuana on migraine headaches.
A 2019 study device that cannabinoids may form a useful adjunct to current analgesic drugs in certain conditions. They not only antagonize several side effects of opioids but can also become a very useful agent in the long-term management of severe pain.
Of the 445 migraine patients in a study, 88% of the headache patients were treating probable migraine with cannabis. 24.9% of that population were able to treat their headache symptoms with cannabis suggesting a positive effect.
If you are a migraine sufferer all you can hope is to achieve better management and control by proper diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes even with the right diagnosis, treating migraines can be frustrating. So before you begin any treatment it is important that you consult your health care provider and be open and honest about your plans before determining the mode of effective treatment suited to your lifestyle.