Tension Headache

Tension headache is the most common of headaches, experienced by 70-90% of people at some time in their life. It is associated with a muscular tension in the head and neck. It may cause tightness or pressure on the forehead or sides of the head, and the pain may move into the shoulders. Stress may bring it on, and smoking may increase its risk. Chronic daily headaches are often rebound from overuse of pain medicines. Some people have withdrawal headaches of this type when weaning from pain medicines, accompanied by nausea, restlessness, diarrhea, trouble sleeping and trembling. It may also be present with other symptoms of low serotonin, such as fatigue, craving for sweets or chocolate, and general muscle aches.


Standard medical treatments:

NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs)

Pain medicine


Physical therapy



Supportive and alternative treatments:

Nutritional –

5HTP – 5-hydroxytryptophan, an amino acid derivative, pre-serotonin

Magnesium – muscle relaxant


Relaxation therapies

Stress management


Massage therapy



Hydrotherapy – warm or cold compresses


Tension Headache and Cannabis

Cannabis is particularly useful for conditions that include symptoms of muscle spasm and pain, such as tension headaches. It can be used internally and topically, applied directly to the site of tension. According to a recent report of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, the first U.S. clinical trials in more than two decades on the medical benefits of marijuana confirm that it is effective in reducing muscle spasms (associated with multiple sclerosis). A further study supported by the center examined the effectiveness of cannabis in treating migraine headaches and facial pain. In that study, rats given a cannabis-like drug exhibited reduced activity of nerve cells that transmit pain. Many patients find that marijuana is additionally useful in reducing stress that may be contributing to the headache, providing more effective relief than any  one pharmaceutical medicine.