Neck pain & headaches
Neck pain may also give rise to headaches
Neck pain and headaches often come as a package deal and the symptoms you feel will vary depending on the cause of your neck pain. Headaches can occur when there has been damage done to neck ligaments, or even if you suffer a whiplash injury. In this page, our muscle and joint expert Earle Logan explores the causes of neck pain and offers a range of home and herbal remedies to relieve any persisting discomfort.
An introduction to neck pain and headaches
Sometimes neck pain and headaches come hand in hand. It can be an unpleasant experience, and often it is difficult to work out why you are experiencing the pain. Indeed, there are many causes of pain in these areas, and often it is important to look at your symptoms, history and what triggers your neck pain and headaches.
What causes neck pain and headaches?
The most understandable reason for someone experiencing pain is if they receive a direct impact to their head or neck. This could happen if you trip and fall, suffer a whiplash injury, twisting your neck in an awkward direction or hitting your head on the ground. However, often the cause is not so obvious.
Other causes may include:
- Soft tissue damage – tendons and ligaments are examples of soft tissue which can be easily damaged. Overstretching these tissues is easily done whilst sleeping in an awkward position or sitting with bad posture in front of a computer screen for too long. This can give rise to muscular neck strain and result in stiffness and headaches
- Migraine – these are severe headaches which come in periodic waves or attacks. There is a range of symptoms associated with migraines, one of the most common being headaches together with neck pain. Neck pain is far more common than aura or nausea, usually said to be common symptoms of headaches
- Tension headache – these are the most common type of headache particularly among teenagers and adults. They occur when the muscles in the neck and head become tense causing them to contract. It is often triggered by stress, although sitting with your head in the same position for a long time, or too much caffeine can also trigger this type of headache
- Cervicogenic headache – while you may experience pain in your head or neck, the root of the problem may lie in your shoulders or upper back. This is a problem which arises from the vertebral bones of your neck (known as the upper cervical vertebrae) which explains the term. Often the cause is a type of arthritis or rheumatism where the cartilage between the bones begins to wear away.
- Trapped nerve –the nerves leaving your vertebral column travel through narrow spaces and are protected by a small amount of soft tissue. However, sometimes the space they pass through becomes smaller, compressing the nerve. This can lead to pain in the head and neck, and in some cases, a tingling sensation down the arms and into the hands or fingers
- Whiplash – this is an injury where your head and neck are flung forwards and then backwards, often straining the muscles or damaging the soft tissue. This is a common occurrence in car accidents, particularly when hit from behind.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms you experience will depend on the cause of your neck pain and headache:
- People suffering from a tension headache will feel tightness or a widespread area of throbbing pain, while those who have a trapped nerve may experience a sharp stabbing pain in a specific area
- If you are experiencing other symptoms as well as neck pain and headaches, then this could give you insight into the cause of your problem. Migraines are often triggered by certain foods such as red wine or chocolate, while tension headaches tend to be a by-product of stress. Finding a correlation between certain circumstances and your symptoms may give you an indication as to the cause
- If your neck pain and headache disappears after a few days, the chances are fairly high that you were suffering from some soft tissue damage or neck strain. This is also likely if you are reluctant to turn your head in a certain direction because it increases the level of pain.
- It is important to distinguish between difficulty turning your head because of pain and an inability to move your head because of weakness, as this is more likely to be an indication of a trapped nerve.
What treatment is there?
The most appropriate treatment will depend on what is causing your neck pain and headaches. For this reason, it is often necessary to speak to a medical professional to have your condition diagnosed and an effective treatment plan to be established.
If you know or suspect that your neck pain and headaches are caused by soft tissue damage or muscle strain, then this can be treated at home by gently easing or stretching your muscles by keeping your head and neck moving. Anti-inflammatories and painkillers will help ease any muscular pain. Extracts of the Arnica herb are often used in these circumstances, as it has anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties. It can be found in licensed herbal products such as Atrogel Arnica gel.
For severe or lasting pain, particularly if your mobility or sense of touch is affected, it is important to seek medical advice. If you are having difficulty co-ordinating, balancing, remembering or speaking, then immediate medical attention is necessary.
Where to buy Atrogel Arnica gel locally
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Find out about neck pain and headaches, including causes, symptoms and treatments.
Cannabis for Migraines: Pros and Cons
Cannabis for Migraines: Pros and Cons
Cannabis has been used for centuries as a migraine treatment. But is it effective? Is it safe? This article discusses the pros and cons of cannabis for migraine relief.
Cannabis contains 450 different substances and only three are psychoactive or elicit a “high” (study).
Here are two of the most studied:
THC is psychoactive and serves a medicinal use. THC gets people high.
CBD is not psychoactive (no high) and also has strong medicinal research. For the full guide to migraines and legal CBD from Hemp Extract, read here.
Eleven Reasons Why Cannabis May Relieve Migraines
1. First Marijuana Migraine Clinical Trial
The first migraine clinical trial for medical marijuana was published in May of 2016 (study).
The study included 121 migraineurs who were prescribed medical marijuana in Colorado.
The results: migraine frequency decreased from a group average of 10.4 migraine days per month to 4.6 migraine days per month.
103 of the 121 migraineurs reported a decrease in migraines.
Twelve percent used marijuana to immediately abort migraines.
The problem science has with this study:
Patients used various forms of cannabis including vaporized, edible, topical cream, and smoked. Doses ranged from an average of 2.64 ounces for vaporized to 1.59 ounces per month for smoked cannabis. Different strains of cannabis were used with varying potencies and effects.
The varying cannabis doses, types, and the lack of a placebo group leave many unanswered questions.
The monthly dose here is also too high for people who don’t want to feel “high”. In addition, this study does not show the success rate of CBD oil (non-psychoactive cannabis oil).
This first clinical evidence for the use of cannabis as a migraine treatment showed a 56 percent reduction in total migraines. If this success rate is duplicated in a placebo-controlled trial with a specific dose, cannabis may become the most successful migraine prevention medication in research.
2. Historical Migraine Use
Cannabis was a leading migraine treatment from 1874 until 1942, when cannabis was deemed illegal in the United States. At the time, twelve medical authorities approved of cannabis for migraine therapy.
Ergotamine remained the only migraine treatment for the next 50 years (study).
Many physicians favored cannabis because ergotamine had, and still has, a dangerous list of side effects. Numbness on one side of the body, blue fingers and toes, confusion, and even death are just a few ergotamine’s side effects (research, study).
3. Oxidative Stress
Various studies have found that cannabis has antioxidant properties that can reduce oxidative stress. This is true for both THC and CBD (non-psychoactive) (study 1, 2, 3, 4).
Oxidative stress is associated with migraines and nearly all migraine triggers (full article).
Oxidative stress is referred to as the “universal migraine trigger.”
Excitotoxicity occurs from a buildup of a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate is great. It’s how your thoughts are transmitted, allowing you to read this sentence. However, in excess, glutamate becomes toxic (study).
THC reduces excitotoxicity. It’s not surprising that the portion of cannabis that makes you high prevents thoughts (glutamate) from firing too rapidly (study).
CBD also has the ability to protect against excitotoxicity during and after brain injuries, possibly by preventing excessive glutamate and/or antioxidant properties (study).
Excessive glutamate plays a large role in trigger migraines (full article).
5. Increased Serotonin
Research as far back as the 1970s shows that cannabis increases serotonin levels (the happy brain chemical) (study).
Cannabis’s ability to treat migraines and increase serotonin may have led to the development of the first migraine specific drug called triptans.
Triptans increase serotonin levels in a similar way to other migraine drugs, such as ergotamine or anti-depressants (study).
6. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Animal studies show that cannabis can slow the onset of MS by reducing inflammation in the brain (study).
A spray of THC and CBD called Sativex has alleviated the chronic pain, paralysis, and other symptoms in MS patients (study).
MS patients are three times more likely to have migraines (full article, #2)
7. Nausea Relief
Ondansetron (Zofran) is a leading treatment for nausea in emergency medicine. Ondansetron works by blocking a certain serotonin receptor called 5-HT3 (study).
Cannabis (THC and CBD) blocks the same receptor and has been used for several centuries to control nausea and vomiting (study 1, 2).
According to a large survey, nausea occurs in more than 90 percent of all migraineurs (study).
Persistent nausea is found in 44 percent of migraineurs and it doubles the risk of developing chronic migraines (15 plus days per month) (study).
In a case study featured on CNN, CBD extract reduced epilepsy in a girl named Charlotte from nearly 50 seizures per day down to just two or three nocturnal seizures per month (study).
Charlotte’s CBD extract has been effective for more than 20 months. Charlotte was weaned off all other seizure medication.
Watch the emotional story below:
A survey of 19 children using cannabis for epilepsy found similar results:
Sixteen children (84 percent) reduced seizures.
Eight children (42 percent) reduced seizures by more than 80 percent.
Two children (11 percent) had complete seizure freedom.
The average number of epileptic drugs tried prior to the study was 12 (study). The children had little relief from the medications. Some of these medications have the risk of death, as we saw in the documentary on Charlotte.
Patients with seizures are more likely to have migraines (full article, # 21).
CBD may reduce seizures by slowing the release of a migraine trigger called glutamate (study).
CBD can also stop seizures immediately as reported by Ben Swann of CBS:
https://youtu.be/Y-vzhUT5irY — Update: The video has since been deleted, along with all of Ben Swann’s media accounts.
The nasal spray shown in the video above is of particular interest because nasal sprays work faster to numb the nerve associated with migraines (full article). Timing is critical for aborting migraines and ingesting oral medications is not as fast or effective.
The same mechanism of slowing glutamate could reduce migraine frequency as it does with other epilepsy medications used to treat migraines (full article).
9. Parkinson’s Disease
Cannabis improves the motor function in those with Parkinson’s disease. It also improves their ability to sleep and their pain levels (study).
The results of cannabis for Larry, a Parkinson’s disease patient, are beyond words.
Migraine sufferers have a 64 percent increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (full article, #9). Pain and disturbances in sleep are also common migraine triggers (full article).
Perhaps cannabis could calm the oversensitive trigeminal nerve in migraine sufferers in a similar way to calming the motor function in Parkinson’s disease.
THC, CBD, and other non-psychoactive substances in cannabis have potent anti-inflammatory properties (study 1, 2, 3).
Migraines are associated with inflammation and anti-inflammatories are common migraine treatments (full article).
Research shows that 1000 mg of aspirin is as strong for migraine relief as 100 mg of sumatriptan, something that drug companies don’t want you to know (13 studies).
11. Alzheimer’s Disease
A study published in 2014 found that low doses of THC reduced the amyloid plaque responsible for brain lesions in Alzheimer’s disease (study). In addition, THC increased mitochondrial function which prevents the same oxidative stress that is common in migraine sufferers.
Similar brain lesions found in Alzheimer’s patients are also found in migraine sufferers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
One study found that migraines tripled the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (study).
12. Ultra-high Lethal Dose
Alcohol, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and many medications result in death from 10 to 20 times their “typical effective dose.” Cannabis has a lethal dose that is 100 to 1,000 times its standard dose (research).
There are no documented cases of overdose from cannabis use and only two suspected cannabis-related deaths found in a German study that was completed in 2014 (study). Of the two possible cannabis deaths, one had a serious undetected heart problem and the other had a history of alcohol and drug use.
In comparison, excessive alcohol use leads to 88,000 deaths per year in the United States (CDC). Prescription opiates have caused more than 183,000 deaths in the last 15 years (CDC).
Considering the long history of cannabis use, especially from ultra-high doses of edibles, its safety is remarkable.
Six Ways Cannabis Could Hurt You
1. Wrong Dose (aka “a bad trip”)
THC and CBD can activate cannabinoid receptors to reduce oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, and inflammation. However, both THC and CBD can also block the cannabinoid receptor and have the opposite effective (study).
Cannabis can raise oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, and inflammation (study 1, 2, 3). This would increase migraine risk.
“It seems to be a dose-dependent issue,” according to research published in 2016 (study). Dose-dependent means that a dose too high could end up hurting you more than it helps, just like any drug.
Cannabinoid receptors play complex roles in regulating the immune system. Cannabinoid receptors can activate inflammation to kill invaders or suppress the inflammation that damages the human body. More research is needed to find out exactly what type of cannabis and what dose is inflammatory or anti-inflammatory for any given condition (study).
Recent research shows that low doses of THC can increase serotonin. However, high doses can slightly reduce serotonin levels (study).
In other words, too much cannabis could make migraines worse. The dose for any migraine medication makes a difference.
Cannabis is addictive (study). Although, many argue that cannabis is not as addictive as alcohol and 91 percent of cannabis users do not become hooked (Scientific American).
Sugar is also addictive and arguably more addictive than cannabis (study).
Dependency to sugar, alcohol, or cannabis could potentially have a negative impact on migraines.
3. Legal Status
Cannabis is a federally illegal schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs such as heroin have no accepted medical use and are highly addictive.
CBD was recently listed as a schedule 1 drug by the DEA. CBD is not addictive and the United States Government has a patent on CBD as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant (Denver Post). It’s hypocrisy.
Fortunately, a 2014 ruling found that CBD is legal and can only be made illegal by an act of congress. Furthermore, hemp is legal and you can legally purchase hemp extract that contains CBD (full article). It’s a grey area.
The problem is simple. Opiates are an 11-billion-dollar-per-year market (report). States that legalize cannabis lose opiate sales. Opiate deaths are also reduced by 25 percent (NYT). So drug companies lobby (legally bribe) federal groups to make cannabis products illegal (Time).
Pharmaceutical companies have spent $2.3 billion lobbying to congress over the last 10 years (NYT). Of course they are going to make a medicine that grows in the dirt illegal. It doesn’t mean congress is evil. They just care more for lobster breakfasts on yachts than saving lives.
If cannabis is illegal in your state, you could face large criminal charges.
Smoke produces tar and is, obviously, not good for your lungs. It increases oxidative stress in the lungs and could lead to more migraines (study).
A Spanish study found that smoking more than five cigarettes per day increases your risk of migraines (study).
Try vaporizing, lotions, edibles, or oils before smoking.
5. Negative Effects
Cannabis can cause dry mouth, nausea, paranoia, anxiety, short-term memory problems, and hallucinations. This is common in large doses of edibles.
Allergic reactions to one of the 700 varieties of cannabis are possible. Personal allergens are migraine triggers (full article).
Speak with your doctor before using cannabis for migraines.
6. Research is Lacking
Cannabis is illegal and the DEA makes it extremely difficult to do research on it (Popular Science).
The research for the specific types and doses of cannabis that benefit migraines is almost non-existent.
Using cannabis will come with a large risk of trial and error.
There are over 700 strains of cannabis and their levels of THC, CBD, and other anti-inflammatory substances vary widely.
Cannabis is federally illegal and minimal research has been done on it. Using cannabis will come with the risk of trial and error.
You don’t need to get high to experience the benefits of cannabis. CBD may be the most powerful migraine treatment, especially in the form of nasal spray or oil.
Saying “I tried cannabis for migraine and it didn’t work” is comparable to saying, “I tried one medication out of dozens and it didn’t work.” There are multiple strains, doses, extracts, and methods for consuming cannabis.
Cannabis has the ability to reduce major migraine triggers such as inflammation, oxidative stress, and glutamate.
The first clinical trial on marijuana and migraines found that 85 percent of patients reduced their migraine frequency.
With the legalization of cannabis, there will be exciting research to come for migraine sufferers.
Author: Jeremy Orozco
Jeremy Orozco is a former firefighter turned migraine expert, author, and co-founder of MigraineKey.com. He’s the author of Hemp for Migraine and The 3-Day Headache “Cure”. You can find Jeremy here at MigraineKey.com and on Facebook. (See Jeremy’s full bio.) // MigraineKey.com is dedicated to eliminating headaches and migraines. Forever. Share this post to help headache and migraine sufferers.
This is not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Read the disclaimer.
Cannabis has been used for centuries as a migraine treatment. But is it effective? Is it safe? Pros and cons of cannabis for migraines.