Chronic migraine is a frequently debilitating condition that affects over 37 million Americans. The combination of severe pain, nausea, and sensitivity to the environment can make it impossible to function. If that weren’t enough, the medications commonly prescribed for migraine often have so many side effects that they don’t feel like much of an improvement. As a result, those living with chronic migraine are often searching for new ways to manage their condition.
One therapeutic option that’s gaining traction is cannabidiol, also known as CBD. This hemp-extracted chemical belongs to the cannabinoid family, and it just so happens that our bodies have receptors perfectly suited to cannabinoids.
These receptors, part of what’s called the endocannabinoid system, help regulate many bodily processes, including some that are involved in the experience of migraine – like pain. It’s been theorized that a deficiency in certain endocannabinoids may be involved in many poorly understood disorders, such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic migraine.
CBD and Migraine Symptoms
Although research on CBD for migraine is still in its preliminary stages, the findings are promising. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that’s been gathered by surveying those with chronic migraine on their CBD use and its effectiveness. The results of one survey of nearly 2,500 people show that CBD-rich cannabis has a significant effect on reducing migraine and improving well-being.
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There is also support for other cannabinoids being potentially effective in reducing migraine, brain pressure, and related conditions. For example, a 2016 study in The Pharmacotherapy Journal found that using medical marijuana at the beginning of an attack could stop a migraine in its tracks. Over a four-year period, the study participants saw a significant reduction in their migraines, from 10.4 per month to 4.6.
There is clinical support that CBD can reduce different types of chronic pain, such as neuropathic pain and arthritic inflammation, which suggests it may be able to reduce head pain as well. CBD is also known for its ability to reduce nausea, which often accompanies migraines and severe headaches.
CBD Can Reduce Migraine Triggers
An important part of treatment is identifying migraine triggers and trying to reduce or avoid them, and CBD may be able to help in this area. One of the most common triggers for migraines is stress and anxiety. Numerous studies have shown that CBD has anti-anxiety effects and can be effective in treating various anxiety disorders.
Muscle tension, which can result from stress and anxiety, can lead to tension headaches and migraines. Migraine sufferers most often report tension in the shoulders and neck, and CBD applied topically to these areas may provide some relief. Studies show that CBD can lessen muscle tension and is effective at reducing muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients.
Additionally, there is a significant relationship between migraine and lack of sleep. People with chronic migraine often report sleep difficulties, and poor sleep is a common migraine trigger. This may be the result of serotonin imbalance and low dopamine. However, research has shown that CBD can improve sleep quality by increasing REM sleep, and alleviating problems like insomnia and sleep apnea. Studies on anxiety have found that CBD acts on serotonin receptors, which may contribute to its positive effects on sleep.
Research may have some catching up to do before CBD can be confirmed as an effective treatment for migraine. But while the studies specific to migraine may be limited, there is support in other areas suggesting that CBD could be helpful for migraine relief.
Many of CBD’s supported benefits, such as the ability to reduce pain and nausea, indicate that CBD may be able to reduce symptoms of a migraine attack. CBD could also reduce migraine frequency by addressing migraine triggers like stress, muscle tension, and poor sleep.
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