Thursday, December 1, 2022
HomeCaffeineWhy Does Caffeine Help Headaches

Why Does Caffeine Help Headaches

Caffeine Can Contribute To Medication

Why Does Skipping Coffee Give Me Headaches?

The;International Headache Society defines medication-overuse headache as a headache occurring on 15 or more days per month in a person with a preexisting primary headache disorder, such as migraine, and developing as a consequence of regular overuse of acute or symptomatic;headache medication for more than three months.

There are several medications linked with MOH, including combination pain relievers that contain aspirin and caffeine.

However, its not only medications with caffeine that are associated with this type of headache: Caffeine intake at levels of 100 to 200 mg per day is probably enough to contribute to medication overuse headache, says Stewart Tepper, MD, professor of neurology at the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, New Hampshire.

RELATED: 10 Things You Need to Know About Medication-Overuse Headache

Does Caffeine Help A Headache Or Not Here’s What Experts Say

If a cup of coffee is your go-to remedy for a pesky headache, heres some confusing news: You may or may not be making your headache worse.

According to experts, caffeine can both relieve and worsen a headache; the outcome depends on multiple factors specific to you and your habits. So before you head to the vending machine for a cola to numb the pain, there are a few things you should consider. Heres what you should know:

Does Caffeine Cause Migraine Getting To Know Caffeines Varied Effects On Migraine

Caffeine is often cited as a headache trigger, but for some people with migraines, a cup of coffee can offer some relief in the midst of an attack. Still, others who have caffeine frequently can suffer migraine attacks triggered by caffeine withdrawal when they skip their morning cup of joe. Often, the key determining factor is the quantity of caffeine consumed: many over-the-counter migraine and headache medications contain caffeine as a key active ingredient, but it is typically included for its role in aiding the bodys absorption of these medicines rather than as a treatment itself.

Still, the line between how much coffee, tea or soda will relieve a headache versus the quantity that will cause one can vary widely from person to person, and depends on a variety of factors. Read on for tips on how to determine how much caffeine is right for your migraine management plan.

Understanding How Caffeine Affects You

Caffeine Effects by Headache Type

How To Determine Your Caffeine Limits

Remember to be on the lookout for caffeine in unexpected places, including some teas, chocolate, non-cola sodas, and even decaf coffee. Check the ingredients in any medications you take. Also, consider that caffeine levels can vary widely between different types of coffee: a large McDonalds brew contains 133mg of caffeine, while a venti at Starbucks has roughly 415mg of caffeine.

Reducing Caffeine Reliance

Font Size

You May Like: Is There Caffeine In Snapple

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?

Avoid Caffeine Withdrawal Headache

why does caffeine help headaches

When you drink coffee three days a week or more, your brain can start to depend on caffeine, the foundation notes. Caffeine blocks a substance in your brainadenosinethat causes blood vessels to swell, called vasodilation. Swollen blood vessels in your head cause throbbing pain. If you suddenly stop drinking coffee, you may have a rebound headache sometimes referred to as a caffeine withdrawal headache.

The American Migraine Foundation warns against using caffeine to treat a headache on more than two days a week. If you need a cup of coffee to treat a headache more than that, you should talk to your doctor.

And if you have a sinus headache, know that caffeine is only a temporary solution. The way to stop the headache is to treat the sinus infection or inflammation. Untreated, it can become a long-term problemsomething no amount of coffee will help.

Read Also: Will Coffee Help Me Lose Weight

Does Caffeine Treat Or Trigger Headaches

Many people ask whether caffeine can treat or trigger a headache. The answer is that caffeine can do both.

Caffeine can provide relief for a headache.

During a headache, blood vessels swell, tighten or go through other changes, causing an increase in blood flow around the brain. This increase blood flow pressures surrounding nerves, which send pain messages to the brain. This brings on the headache.

Caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties, meaning that blood vessels narrow to restrict blood flow, thereby alleviating the pain. Also, when caffeine is taken in combination with pain medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, it increases the absorption and strength of the medication to provide faster relief.

Caffeine can trigger a headache.

When caffeine is consumed regularly, the body becomes dependent on its effects. And because caffeine narrows the blood vessels that surround the brain, when consumption is stopped, the blood vessels enlarge. This causes an increase in blood flow around the brain and pressures surrounding nerves. This can then trigger what is known as a caffeine withdrawal headache. Withdrawal headaches can last for a couple of weeks because it takes the body a while to adjust to not having caffeine in its system.

What should you do?

Kelli Tornstrom is a nurse practitioner in Neurology;in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Topics in this Post

How To Reduce Your Dependence On Caffeine

One way to avoid caffeine withdrawal headaches is to reduce your dependence on caffeine. However, you could end up with even more headaches if you go cold turkey.

The best way is to cut back slowly. You should aim to reduce your intake by about 25 percent each week.

For example, if you usually drink four cups of coffee a day, go down to three cups a day for the first week. Continue to cut back until you get down to one or no cups a day. If you crave the taste of coffee, switch to .

You may consider using a food diary to track how much caffeine youre getting. This will help you cut back on other sources of caffeine, such as black tea, soda, and chocolate. Switching to noncaffeinated alternatives, such as herbal tea, seltzer with fruit juice, and carob may help.

Most people can manage caffeine dependence or reduce their reliance without medical intervention.

You should make an appointment with your doctor if your headaches are accompanied by:

Read Also: Trop A Rocka Diet Snapple Discontinued

Caffeine Can Also Trigger Headaches

Drinking lots of caffeine won’t help relieve a headache. For example, if you increase your caffeine intake, but don’t increase how much water you’re drinking, caffeine can trigger a headache indirectly by causing you to become more dehydrated.;;

However, you’re more likely to get a headache from caffeine if you simply drink too much of it too often, because this can lead to dependence.

If you suddenly stop or reduce your caffeine intake after consuming it regularly typically more than 200 mg per day for more than 2 weeks you may feel the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. According to the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , headaches are the main symptom of caffeine withdrawal.;

Caffeine narrows the blood vessels around your brain, so once you stop consuming it regularly, they expand. This causes a significant increase in blood flow to the brain, and that’s what can lead to migraine headaches.;

“If you want to get off caffeine, don’t abruptly stop. Taper your intake gradually over a few days. This can help minimize the intense withdrawal headache,” says Stephens.;

According to the American Migraine Foundation, it’s possible to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms by tapering down your intake to as little as 25 mg of caffeine a day.;

Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches Symptoms

Migraine Headaches and Caffeine Migraine Headache Relief Dr.Berg

If a headache sets in after skipping caffeine but your symptoms start to subside after having some caffeine, this is a good indication that youre experiencing caffeine withdrawal . Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine.

Some of the most common caffeine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue, lethargy and sleepiness
  • Dizziness, clumsiness, lack of coordination

Whats happening in the body when someones going through caffeine withdrawal?

Caffeine impacts the way your brain and body work in a number of ways. The chemical caffeine is considered a stimulant of the methylxanthine class of psychoactive drugs. It affects the central nervous system and has other effects including elevating your heart rate, altering blood flow, increasing alertness and decreasing fatigue.

One reason why quitting caffeine causes headaches is because of caffeines vasoconstrictive properties. Caffeine narrows the;blood;vessels that surround your;brain, but when you stop using it, the blood vessels expand again, triggering pain since your body needs time to adjust.

Caffeine abstinence also produces changes in certain brain wave rhythms linked to increased fatigue. It also allows a chemical called adenosine to accumulate in the body. Adenosine is involved in energy metabolism and is responsible for making you feel sleepy.

Does caffeine ever help;headaches?

Recommended Reading: Does Diet Root Beer Have Caffeine

Caffeine: What You Need To Know

Robert E. Shapiro, MD, PhDProfessor of NeurologyUniversity of Vermont College of MedicineBurlington, VT

Keeler Center for the Study of HeadachesOjai, CA

Migraine patients often report that some attacks can be halted by a strong cup of coffee. This is not surprising to hear. Caffeine is a key active ingredient in many headache medications including ExcedrinTM, AnacinTM, MidolTM, Darvon CompoundTM, FioricetTM, and MigranalTM. Caffeine may aid in the absorption of these medicines, but can caffeine itself relieve headaches? Few research studies have examined this question, but the answer appears to be yes; caffeine can provide some headache relief. For example, one small controlled study found that caffeine was more effective than placebo, and as effective as acetaminophen, in relieving tension-type headaches.

Caffeine Headaches By The Numbers

Caffeine-withdrawal headaches generally occur when you consume over 200mg of caffeine daily for 2 weeks, then stop or delay your caffeine intake. The headache goes away within an hour of consuming 100mg of caffeine. Heres the amount of caffeine in various sources:

  • Coffee : 95-165 mg
  • Espresso : 47-64 mg
  • Energy drinks : 27-164 mg
  • Soda : 24-46 mg
  • Green tea : 25-29 mg
  • Black tea : 25-48 mg
  • Milk Chocolate : 9 mg
  • Dark Chocolate : 30 mg

If you stop caffeine completely, caffeine-withdrawal headache symptoms should go away in about 1 week.

Recommended Reading: Does Diet Root Beer Have Caffeine

How Does A Lack Of Caffeine Make Your Head Hurt Though

Caffeine affects us in a handful of ways, particularly by narrowing the blood vessels in our brains. When you dont have caffeine, those blood vessels widen, and your brain experiences a boost in blood flow. This can cause a headache.

As your brain gets used to the effects of caffeine, cutting it off even just for a day can result in withdrawal symptoms like headaches.

So what are you supposed to do if you want to cut your caffeine consumption? Taper off slowly instead of going cold turkey .

How To Combat Caffeine Headaches

why does caffeine help headaches

By Jillian Levy, CHHC

Caffeine, regardless of the source, can be both a headache trigger or headache inhibitor. Caffeine withdrawal headaches, however, occur when someone normally dependent on caffeine decides to skip out their usual caffeine routine.

Youre most susceptible to experiencing caffeine headaches and other withdrawal effects if you regularly consume large quantities of caffeine.

Coffee is the caffeinated drink thats responsible for the majority of caffeine headaches, and that makes sense, considering its one of the most highly consumed beverages in the world;following water and tea. But you can also experience headaches if you quit using energy drinks, soda or some caffeine-containing medications.

Also Check: How Many Calories In Starbucks Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much

The effects of caffeine vary from person to person. Some people can periodically enjoy one or more sources of caffeine, and then skip out on caffeine other days, without experiencing any headaches. Others are more sensitive and susceptible to the effects of withdrawal.;Its still possible to develop negative symptoms when quitting caffeine even if you only consumed it for a few days in a row.

If you know that you tend to experience headaches easily and somewhat frequently, experts recommend either avoiding all caffeine or limiting your caffeine intake;to one or two beverages daily.

This amount is roughly equivalent to 200 milligrams of caffeine, or about 2 regular-size cups of coffee.

When it comes to coffee consumption specifically, most research suggest that adults consume no more than about 3- to 4 cups a day. This amount is considered a moderate caffeine intake and provides about;300 to 400milligrams a day of caffeine. Other research suggests that more coffee, up to 5 or 6 cups, is even okay as long as it doesnt interfere with quality of life.

Below is a list of the most common sources of caffeine that can wind up contributing to withdrawal effects, according to the National Headache Foundation:

How Much Caffeine You Should Consume To Relieve Headaches

Overall, Stephens says it’s important to consume caffeine in moderation. That way, you can stave off any potential episodes of withdrawal.;

“The right amount is under 400 mg of caffeine per day,” says Stephens. That’s around two to four cups of coffee, depending on how long it’s brewed for, as well as how strong the coffee you’re drinking is.

Recommended Reading: How Much Caffeine In Snapple Diet Peach Tea

Understanding The Relationship Between Caffeine And Headaches

Is caffeine helping or hurting your efforts to manage migraine attacks and other types of headaches?

Whether youre gritting your teeth trying to give up your cola habit or drinking a strong cup of tea in hopes of stopping a migraine attack, youre probably well aware that caffeine can have an effect on a headache. However, the connection between the two is not fully understood.

Coffee is one of the most popular sources of caffeine in the American diet, and according to the National Coffee Association, 62 percent of Americans drink coffee every day, with the average coffee drinker consuming just over three cups per day.

Although its easy to become dependent on caffeine, such that stopping it abruptly causes withdrawal symptoms such as headache, its generally considered safe for most people in reasonable quantities.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that consuming up to 400 milligrams a day is generally safe for healthy adults. For reference, an average 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 80 to 100 mg, and a cola-type soda contains about 30 to 40 mg.

For people with migraine or headaches, the relationship between caffeine and their head pain is a delicate one. On the one hand, caffeine may help ease headaches; on the other, if you are trying to give up or cut down on caffeine, you may experience a temporary spate of caffeine withdrawal headaches.

RELATED: 10 Things You Need to Know About Caffeine

The Caffeine’s Effects Are In General Opposite To The Effects Of Adenosine

Why Caffeine is Good and Bad for Your Headache

The brain levels of adenosine in cats and rodents in resting physiological condition have been estimated to 30200 nM/L, concentrations sufficient to activate A1, A2A and possibly A3 receptors if numerous on the cells , but in most tissues the adenosine signaling is not very prominent . Even low concentrations of caffeine, such as 110 M achieved after consumption of a single cup of coffee, result in significant antagonism of adenosine A1 and A2A receptors and may result in increased alertness .

Sleep and Arousal


It is clear that both adenosine and blockade of adenosine by caffeine may cause anti-nociception. Since the nanomolar affinities of adenosine for A1R and A2AR are almost the same, this indicates a fine balanced modulation of the pain processing , making it very difficult to predict the net effects of caffeine on nociception in humans.

Caffeine Overuse and Withdrawal

Further, repeated exposure to caffeine may lead to rapid development of tolerance, preferentially to the A1-blocking effect, and in some cases it even may result in opposite effects than expected . By drinking three to four cups of coffee regularly around 50% A1 and A2A receptor occupancy can be achieved for several hours, and many of the actions of caffeine are due to this AR blockade .

Also Check: Can You Drink Coffee After Wisdom Teeth Removal

Amounts Of Products Caffeine

The National Headache Foundation lists the amounts of caffeine in various drinks, foods and medications. Drip coffee contains about 106 to 164 mg of caffeine per 5 ounces , while percolated, instant and espresso coffee drinks contain less. Black tea has about 25 to 110 mg in 5 ounces, while oolong and green tea have much less.

Various forms of chocolate, including cocoa, milk chocolate and baking chocolate, have 2 to 35 mg per ounce.

Colas, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper and Mister Pibb contain 36 to 57 mg per 12 ounces . Sports and energy drink can contain high amounts of caffeine. For example, FIXX has 500 mg per 16 ounces , and the No Name brand has 280 mg per 8.4 ounces .

The Migraine Research Foundation says migraines are not just bad headaches, but rather they are an extremely debilitating collection of neurological symptoms. Migraines cause intense throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head and often also result in visual disturbances, vomiting, dizziness and extreme sensitivity to smell, touch sound and light.

Taking all of these factors into consideration will help migraine sufferers decide if caffeine is right for them.


Most Popular