For as long as I can remember, I have been suffering from migraines. They are so bad I become completely incapacitated. I can barely get out of bed and find it challenging to focus on anything other than the pain. I become hyper-sensitive to sounds, smells and light. Even the tiniest morsel of food makes me nauseous, and I struggle to keep anything down. Even water and pain medication don’t make it into my system.
I am not alone in the severity of my headaches. According to the latest report by Statistics Canada, 2.7 million Canadians have been diagnosed with migraines. Researchers indicate the number of “migraineurs,” people who suffer from migraines, is actually higher, since not everyone who experiences migraines seeks professional help.
In Canada women are more than twice as likely as men to report migraines (11.8% versus 4.7%). Although there is still no consensus amongst researchers as to what exactly causes migraines, for women, migraines are often associated with hormonal shifts, such as menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause. Whatever the reasons may be, the fact remains that migraines are a debilitating condition experienced by Canadians.
As a migraine sufferer, I have tried many strategies to help alleviate my pain—from cold presses and pain medication to secluding myself in a dark room, nothing helps. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to try cannabis to help manage my pain. I tried edibles, topical creams and smoking to see if any of these methods would give me the much-needed relief I was looking for. Here is what I found:
Since cannabis-infused edibles often provide a more intense high, I decided to give this a try to numb my pain. I tried edible pretzels high in TCH, a strong anti-inflammatory and painkiller. But, given that my migraines are often accompanied by intense vomiting, I was skeptical that this would help alleviate my pain. Nonetheless, I gave it a shot on two occasions: once when I was experiencing vomiting, and once when I wasn’t (which is a very rare occurrence in my case).
Unfortunately, in both instances, edibles provided me with minimal to no relief. In the first instance, I was unable to keep it down, and in the second instance, given that edibles can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to kick in, the relief that I did experience came a little too late.
Based on my mother’s rave reviews of how cannabis-infused topical cream helped alleviate her arthritis pain, I decided I would give this a shot. Absorbed through the skin, topicals provided localized relief of pain by relaxing the tissue and blood vessels where the headache is located, as well as improving circulation to the affected area. In my experience, topicals provided some relief, making the pain slightly more manageable to handle, but this only lasted a short period of time and only on the areas where I applied the cream, making me more aware of pain outside of where I had applied the treatment.
Finally, I decided to give smoking a try, since it is the fastest way to get cannabis into your system. In fact, various studies have shown that inhaling cannabis is a surefire way to alleviate migraine pain. According to a 2016 study of 121 migraineurs by Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals Sciences at the University of Colorado, many reported positive effects, reduced frequency and, in about 12% of cases, complete cessation of migraine pain. Unfortunately for me, inhaling cannabis did not completely take away my pain. But, it did provide me with more relief than any other method I have tried, cannabis or otherwise.
In fact, it is the only method that has provided me long-lasting relief. It helped with my nausea and reduced the severity of the pain that I was experiencing, allowing me to sleep it off. Although I continued to experience pain, the throbbing drastically subsided when I combined topical treatment with inhaling cannabis. This is now my go-to course of treatment.
Although, cannabis hasn’t 100% alleviated my migraine pain or reduced its frequency, as reported by many migraineurs in the above-mentioned report, it has been my saving grace when it comes to managing my migraine pain. As someone who is still very new to the world of cannabis, I haven’t paid much mind to the various cannabis strains and instead I’ve just used whatever has been readily available to me. As I move forward on my cannabis journey, I am excited to learn more about the different strains of cannabis and how they can help with both relaxation and pain management. I’m confident that with some research into cannabis strainology, I will be even better equipped to fight future attacks.