How Can I Treat A Caffeine Withdrawal Headache
Gradually reduce your consumption of caffeine instead of stopping suddenly. This can help to reduce the severity of your withdrawal symptoms, although it may take longer for them to go away completely completely. Reduce how much caffeine you have each day over two to three weeks or longer if needed. Put a plan in place to help you stay on track.
Headaches can be treated with over the counter medications, such as acetaminophen , ibuprofen and aspirin. Remember to avoid medications that contain caffeine.
Rest and get plenty of sleep.
Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Symptoms Of Caffeine Withdrawal
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Caffeine is the worlds most commonly consumed psychoactive substance.
It functions as a central nervous system stimulant, meaning it affects neural activity in the brain and increases alertness while reducing fatigue .
If the body becomes dependent on caffeine, eliminating it from the diet can cause withdrawal symptoms that typically begin 1224 hours after stopping caffeine.
Caffeine withdrawal is a recognized medical diagnosis and can affect anyone who regularly consumes caffeine.
Here are 8 common signs and symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
How To Identify Your Headache Triggers
It can be helpful to keep a headache diary. This is a simple listing of:
When your headache developed
The intensity of the headache
What helped, if anything
If you’re not sure if a food is triggering your headaches, try limiting your intake of that food for 4 weeks. Then, notice if your headaches improve or not, using your diary to track your headaches.
If there is no change after 4 weeks, then it’s possible that food is not a headache trigger. It’s also still possible it is a trigger, but something else is also a trigger.
Experts do not recommend trying to restrict your diet if you are pregnant. They also do not recommend trying this method for children or teens.
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How To Reduce Caffeine Dependence
The best way to reduce caffeine dependency is gradually, ideally, by cutting down on caffeine intake by around 25% each week.
Coffee, tea, or soda drinkers may find it easier to transition to decaffeinated versions of their favorite beverages. People could also try mixing decaf with caffeinated drinks and gradually increasing the proportion of decaf to caffeinated.
Several other tricks and lifestyle habits can also help people reduce their caffeine dependence, such as:
replacing caffeinated foods and drinks with caffeine free alternatives
How Caffeine Hurts
Oddly enough, what makes caffeine effective in pain relief can also cause headaches.
Withdrawal: Itâs easy for your body to get so used to the effects of caffeine that when you donât have it in your system, you have withdrawal. A headache is one of the symptoms. This can happen when you have caffeine regularly, even as little as a cup of coffee a day.
Too Much Medication: Caffeine can also a factor in whatâs known as a medication overuse, or rebound headache. This can happen when you take too much of any kind of pain reliever or take it too often. When the medicine wears off, the pain comes back worse than before. When you combine caffeine with pain relievers this condition is more likely.
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Is Decaf Coffee Ok
The USDA requires that at least 97.5% of caffeine be removed from coffee in order for it to be labeled as decaffeinated. So the starting potency of coffee is very relevant to the potency of decaf. University of Florida researchers have measured up to 6.9 mg caffeine per 8 ounces of Starbucks brewed decaffeinated coffee, and up to 15.8 mg caffeine per 1 oz shot of Starbucks decaffeinated espresso.
Studies of caffeine dependency and tolerance have shown that daily caffeine users are actually more motivated to consume it to avoid withdrawal symptoms, than to experience the lift that its stimulant properties may provide. Caffeine’s combination of a punishing syndrome of withdrawal, along with a rewarding sense of wakefulness, has made coffee, tea, and chocolate some of humanity’s best loved foods. One might say that caffeine-producing plants have succeeded in motivating humans to cultivate them widely and with very great care.
It is important to emphasize that caffeine consumption is rarely the sole “cause” of frequent headaches including migraine. However, it is a modifiable risk factor, unlike many other unavoidable migraine triggers, that is often a significant and overlooked contributor to the problem. The moderation or elimination of caffeine use should be one component of a successful program of therapies for migraine sufferers â and it requires no prescription.
How To Reduce Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal should only last between two and nine days, with peak intensity of symptoms occurring 2451 hours after caffeine is cut out (
While these symptoms are usually short-lived, they can be uncomfortable and make life difficult.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the chances of experiencing these unpleasant side effects.
Try the following tips to reduce or completely avoid symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
Cut back slowly: Quitting cold turkey can shock the body and make withdrawal symptoms worse. Gradually weaning off caffeine can reduce the chances of experiencing unpleasant side effects.
Reduce caffeinated beverages: If youre used to drinking full-strength coffee, start drinking half-decaf, half-regular coffee to slowly reduce your dependence. Even better, swap one of your coffees for a decaf herbal tea. Shop for herbal tea online.
Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water is crucial when cutting out caffeine. Dehydration can worsen symptoms of withdrawal, such as headache and fatigue (
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Where Is A Caffeine Withdrawal Headache Located
A caffeine withdrawal headache can present as a feeling of pain and pressure that pushes outwards from the brain. Starting behind the eyes, it can move up to the front of the head. Caffeine withdrawal headaches can also present with migraine-like symptoms and as a widespread feeling of throbbing pain.
How To Minimize Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches
If youre trying to reduce your caffeine dependency by dialing back on your intake, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can put a damper on your efforts. Minimize caffeine withdrawal headaches using the following techniques:
Wean off your caffeine intake gradually by reducing your intake by 25% each week. You can also try swapping out some of your regular coffee with decaf if you crave the taste of a steaming cup of coffee.
Read food labels to ensure that youre not consuming extra caffeine you arent aware of.
Use peppermint oil topically to help relieve inflammation and tighten muscles associated with headaches.
Drink plenty of water since dehydration can cause the brain to shrink in volume and cause a headache.
Apply an ice pack to your head to alter the blood flow or numb the area.
Stimulate pressure points to relieve muscle tension, which can cause headaches.
Get enough rest by taking naps or going to bed earlier than usual.
Caffeine headaches can be caused by a variety of triggers and withdrawal is one of the most common reasons. You can track your caffeine intake and notice how your body reacts so you can adjust your consumption and find the best way to wean your body from caffeine dependency while minimizing the withdrawal symptoms.
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Can Caffeine Itself Be The Culprit
Theres another possible reason your head is pounding: the caffeine itself. While its true that caffeine is often used to relieve headaches , its also true that it can sometimes cause headaches.
Some more bad news if youve got migraine but you love your lattes: One small 2016 study found that eliminating caffeine intake helped other headache treatments work better.
Another 2019 study found a link between caffeine use and migraine. Researchers say that the odds of having a migraine attack increased for people drinking three or more caffeinated beverages a day.
Whether a headache is caused by the caffeine or the withdrawal will vary from person to person. Remember, caffeine is a drug and everyone reacts differently.
What Foods Cause Headaches
Some headaches are caused by things that happen in everyday life. Triggers can include sleep habits, posture, stress, and diet. If you get frequent headaches, you can adjust your lifestyle to avoid your known headache triggers. This may include removing headache-causing foods from your diet.
Experts believe that food-related headaches make up only about 20% of all headaches. The following foods are thought to contribute to headaches in those cases:
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Slowly Back Away From The Caffeine
These tips can help you incrementally stop your caffeine intake.
Set a time limit: Set a time by which you stop your caffeine intake each day. Medical professionals recommend 2 p.m., so as not to interfere with your sleep.
Substitute a lower caffeine drink: Start with small changes. If you usually drink light roast coffee, switch to a dark roast, to start. If you usually drink black tea, try green or white tea instead.
Lean on decaf: If you typically drink espresso or dark-roast coffees, which have more caffeine than other caffeinated drinks, start by cutting it with half or even a quarter decaf coffee. Then, every few days, cut it down further, slowly reducing your intake over time.
And dont rush it. Slowing ramping down is the best way to go about it, Czerwony advises.
Stimulate Those Pressure Points
Acupressure is a type of traditional Chinese medicine in which you apply pressure to certain points on your body. Its been found to sometimes relieve headaches and ease muscle tension.
A 2010 study found that one month of acupressure treatment relieved chronic headaches better than muscle relaxants did.
There are several pressure points that you can try stimulating for headache relief. More study is required to determine whether these actually work. It couldnt hurt to try, right?
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What Else You Should Know About Ocular Migraines
An ocular migraine is short-lived and may not be painful, but it can be debilitating you have to be careful while doing daily activities like driving, reading, or writing. The chance of permanent vision loss due to an ocular migraine is rare but the reduced blood flow for a prolonged time can damage your retina. So it is a good idea to make an appointment with your ophthalmologist to check your condition.
Since hormones play such a big role in causing migraines, declining estrogen levels as women age and enter menopause is a reason why migraines usually reduce in severity in older women.11
What About Caffeine And Other Types Of Headaches
Even those who donât suffer from migraines can experience headaches associated with caffeine intake, such as rebound headaches . Caffeine is prone to dependency, and rebound headaches occur when you consume too much caffeine, subsequently experiencing withdrawal.
For migraine sufferers, rebound headaches may prove to be more devastating, so itâs a smart idea to limit your caffeine intake and decrease your dependency on the stimulant. Decreased dependency will also help caffeine help you in the case of an oncoming migraine: Eric, 30, typically limits himself to one cup of coffee per day, but has found that if he feels an oncoming migraine, drinking a little more coffee can help.
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How To Identify Triggers
If you have migraine, almost anything can be a trigger. This means it can be very difficult to identify your potential triggers. It may also be a combination of a few things that seems to lead to a migraine attack. And a trigger may not lead to a migraine attack every time, which can confuse things even more.
Here is an example of how combinations of triggers can work: A young woman has identified that her migraine attacks appear to be triggered when she skips meals, is feeling stressed and when she is about to have her period. If she comes home late from a very stressful day at work, her period is just about to start, and she goes straight to bed without eating a proper meal, she will almost certainly have a migraine attack. However, if she skips dinner another time, when the other triggers did not happen, she will probably not have migraine attack.
Many people find that they sometimes go a long time without having a migraine attack. During this time, your body may seem to be less sensitive to triggers and you may find that even the combination of your usual triggers doesnt result in a migraine attack.
Try Using Peppermint Essential Oil
For some natural relief, try applying diluted peppermint essential oil to your temples. Some research says that menthol can reduce inflammation and relax tight muscles, soothing a headache.
One 2016 study even found that peppermint oil can be just as effective as acetaminophen at relieving tension headaches. Hey, its worth trying.
You can dilute about 15 to 20 drops of peppermint essential oil in 2 teaspoons of carrier oil, such as jojoba. Apply to your temples.
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Hit The Medicine Cabinet
Respond as you would for any other headache: Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen , acetaminophen , or aspirin .
Pain relievers can generally be taken every few hours as needed. However, speak to a healthcare provider before taking any new medication, especially if youre on other meds as well.
The Effects Of Too Much Caffeine
Although caffeine is generally considered safe, consuming as little as 300 milligrams per day can increase your risk of negative side effects, including:
The more caffeine you consume, the more likely you are to experience negative side effects, including neurologic and cardiac issues and even death.
And even people who are drinking safe amounts of caffeine may be doing so for unhealthy reasons. Any time youre trying to manage stress with a substance, thats something to pause and think about, Czerwony says.
If youre trying to quit your caffeine habit, heres where to start.
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What A Caffeine Headache Feels Like
How do you know if you have a caffeine headache or one caused by stress or a cold? It can be tricky, but there are certain telltale signs of a caffeine headache.
Personal experience is a big clue. Say you have caffeine every morning and you get a headache on the one day you skipped it. You also have no other symptoms of a cold and youre just chillin. Congrats: Theres a good chance youve got a caffeine withdrawal headache.
Your level of pain may be another clue. Caffeine headaches are usually moderately to severely painful, and youll feel them on both sides of your head. They typically get worse with physical activity. They can start a few hours after reducing or stopping your caffeine intake.
Caffeine headaches are often accompanied by other withdrawal symptoms, such as:
When a withdrawal headache hits, youre probably tempted to guzzle a venti Starbucks, stat. We relate, but you can try other things first to get rid of that caffeine headache ASAP.
Caffeine As A Headache Treatment
Caffeine seems to be an effective acute treatment for migraine, or at least a component for the acute treatment of migraine from a patient perspective, says Roderick Spears, MD, a neurologist and headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
Patients often report that if they can have a caffeinated beverage combined with a medication, its usually helpful during an attack, Dr. Spears says.
There are also medications to treat headache and migraine both over-the-counter and prescription that contain caffeine and can be helpful for some patients when they are having a migraine attack, says Spears.
Similarly the drug Cafergot, available by prescription, contains ergotamine and caffeine. Each tablet contains 100 mg of caffeine, and the recommended dose is to take two tablets as soon as you notice a migraine attack starting and one additional tablet every 30 minutes up to a total of six tablets per 24 hours if symptoms continue.
The mechanism of action behind caffeines pain-relieving potential is related to the blood vessels, says Spears.
We know that blood vessels dilate with migraine, and caffeine is thought to be beneficial because it causes vasoconstriction. Thats what people are addressing when they consume a caffeinated beverage or a medication that contains caffeine when they have a migraine, he says.
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