So Is Caffeine Good Or Bad For Headaches
It can be either, neither, or both. Its really trial and error, Dr. Martin says. Some people do better with caffeine, and some people do much better without it.
Either way, he says, limiting your caffeine to around 200 mg a day, which is around 2 cups a day max, is smart if youre headache prone. Its also better, he says, to not slug it all at once, because having a big ol mug in the morning can sometimes lead to caffeine withdrawal headaches at night. Its best to spread it out throughout the day, but not after 5 or too close to bedtime, he adds.
Of course, whittling your caffeine intake down to 200 mg a day or weaning off of it altogether if you think its triggering headaches, can mean caffeine withdrawal in the short termand more headaches.
Thats why youll want to go slow, says Dr. Martin. If you drink four coffees a day, go down to three for a week, and then to two for a week, and see if your headaches lessen. If you want to try life without caffeine altogether, taper off to zero. But give it a fair shot, he says. It may take three to four weeks to see the full effects of no caffeine. Around 70% Dr. Martins patients see a big difference in headaches when they ditch the stimulant completely, he says.
If You Have Migraines Put Down Your Coffee And Read This
- By Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
During medical school, a neurologist taught me that the number one cause of headaches in the US was coffee.
That was news to me! But it made more sense when he clarified that he meant lack of coffee. His point was that for people who regularly drink coffee, missing an early morning cup, or even just having your first cup later than usual, can trigger a caffeine withdrawal headache. And considering how many daily coffee drinkers there are , its likely that coffee withdrawal is among the most common causes of headaches.
Later in my neurology rotation, I learned that caffeine is a major ingredient in many headache remedies, from over-the-counter medicines such as Excedrin and Anacin, to powerful prescription treatments such as Fioricet. The caffeine is supposed to make the other drugs in these combination remedies work better and, of course, it might be quite effective for caffeine-withdrawal headaches.
But then I learned that for people with migraine headaches, certain drugs, foods, and drinks should be avoided, as they can trigger migraines. At the top of this list? Coffee.
So, to review: the caffeine in coffee, tea, and other foods or drinks can help prevent a headache, treat a headache, and also trigger a headache. How can this be?
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.
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The Science Of Withdrawal
What Causes Migraine Attacks
People living with migraine typically deal with recurrent, pulsating headaches that can be severe.
These headaches can last anywhere from a few hours to almost 3 days and sometimes include symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting.
While researchers are still trying to get to the bottom of why migraine attacks happen, they can be caused by a variety of known triggers, including:
- changes in the weather
Medications used to treat migraine also sometimes cause more attacks if theyre used more than 10 days out of the month.
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Is It A Trigger Or A Warning
We know that the brain of someone with migraine likes balance, like regular sleep and meal patterns. We also know that migraine can be triggered by alcohol and the menstrual cycle. The evidence for other triggers, such as exercise, eating chocolate and bright light, is less certain.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if something is really a trigger, or if what youre experiencing is an early symptom of a migraine attack.
Studies have found that sometimes what you may think is a trigger is actually to do with the premonitory or warning stage of a migraine attack.
During this stage, you may get symptoms such as changes in your mood or emotions, cravings for certain foods, and being more sensitive to light, sound or smells.
These symptoms can lead to you think that something is triggering your migraine attack. For example, at the beginning of a migraine attack, you may start to crave sweet foods. You may then eat some chocolate to satisfy the craving. When you then get a headache, you may think that eating chocolate was the trigger. But actually you were starting to have a migraine attack when the cravings started and the cravings were the warning sign.
The same could be true for other triggers. If you are more sensitive to light in the warning stage, you might think bright lights are a trigger. If you are more sensitive to smells, you might think certain scents are a trigger.
What Are The Symptoms Of Caffeine Withdrawal
If you have developed a dependence on caffeine, an abrupt cutback can cause withdrawal symptoms that may include:
- Muscle pain.
In general, the more caffeine you are used to consuming, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms are likely to be. Symptoms of withdrawal begin 12 to 24 hours after the last caffeine intake and can last two to nine days.
Caffeine can be a useful tool for an adult who needs help waking up and concentrating. But, it can also cause problems if youre not careful with it. Dont use caffeine too much or you could become dependent or have insomnia or headaches. Otherwise, enjoy that coffee or chocolate!
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/23/2020.
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Migraine Headaches: Still Mysterious After All These Years
Migraine headaches are quite common: more than a billion people reportedly suffer from migraines worldwide. Yet, the cause has long been a mystery and it still is.
Until recently, the going theory was that blood vessels around the brain go into spasm, temporarily constricting and limiting blood flow. Then, when the blood vessels open up, the rush of incoming blood flow leads to the actual headache.
That theory has fallen out of favor. Now, the thinking is that migraines are due to waves of electrical activity spreading across the outer portions of the brain, leading to inflammation and overreactive nerve cells that send inappropriate pain signals. Why this begins in the first place is unknown.
Migraines tend to run in families, so genetic factors are likely important. In addition, chemical messengers within the brain, such as serotonin, may also play a central role in the development of migraines, though the mechanisms remain uncertain.
People prone to migraines may experience more headaches after coffee consumption , but coffee itself, or the caffeine it contains, is not considered the actual cause of migraines. Certain foods or drinks like coffee are thought to trigger episodes of migraine, but the true cause is not known.
What You Can Do
Be aware of how caffeine affects you, and pay attention to how much of it you drink and eat. If you get migraines, or if you find yourself having headaches frequently, you may want to try to cut down on caffeine or avoid it completely. Itâs best to do that gradually. For example, if you normally have 2 cups of coffee in the morning, start by cutting back to one. If you quit suddenly, it can take up to a week to get past the withdrawal symptoms.
Keep track of your headaches and what seems to help. Get good sleep, and drink plenty of water. A nutritious diet and daily exercise can also help. Try to manage stress. You might be able to beat a headache with relaxation techniques, meditation, or massage instead of using medicine or caffeine.
Migliardi, J. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, November 1994.
Lipton, R. Archives of Neurology, February 1998.
National Headache Foundation: âCaffeine: A Little Bit Goes a Long Way.â
Ward, N. Pain, February 1991.
American Headache Society: âCaffeine and Migraine.â
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: âHeadache: Hope Through Research.â
Diamond, S. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 2001.
Diener, H. Current Treatment Options in Neurology, 2011.
Silverman, K. New England Journal of Medicine, October 1992.
Addicott, M. Human Brain Mapping, October 2009.
Cleveland Clinic: âRebound Headaches.â
Cupini, L. Journal of Headache and Pain, 2005.
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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.
Caffeine As A Risk Factor For Chronic Migraine
Theres evidence that too much caffeine consumption is a risk factor for developing chronic migraine, says Spears.
Chronic migraine is when a person experiences 15 or more days per month of headache with migrainous features, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
Its estimated that chronic migraine affects about 1 to 2 percent of the general population and close to 8 percent of people with migraine. Each year approximately 3 percent of people with episodic migraine convert to having chronic migraine each year, according to a paper published in 2016 in the Nature Reviews Neurology.
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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.
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.
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Can Migraines Cause You To Not Sleep
Insomnia. The most common sleep problem for people living with migraine is insomnia. This includes difficulty falling or staying asleep, early morning awakenings and non-refreshing sleep. Insomnia impairs daytime functions, which results in fatigue, poor attention and concentration, and loss of motivation.
Snoring And Sleep Apnea
If a person snores regularly, they may be at higher risk of chronic headaches. Snoring is one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a condition that causes temporary pauses in breathing during sleep.
Sleep apnea disrupts sleep and often results in people waking with a headache and feeling unrested. Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- pauses in breathing
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How To Remedy A Caffeine Headache
The number one cause of a caffeine headache is caffeine withdrawal.
Even a small decline in the amount of caffeine a person usually consumes can result in a mild headache.
People who miss their daily dose, consume less than their average, or who are detoxing from caffeine will most likely experience this type of headache.
Need help reducing caffeine ?
As many have experienced, you dont need to be an addict to experience the negative effects of caffeine
People who consume caffeine in a hit or miss fashion tend to have more caffeine-induced headaches than those that have the same amount every day.
Also, those that consume too much caffeine in a short amount of time often experience a headache as a common caffeine overdose symptom.
Finally, those who are ultra-sensitive to the caffeine molecule or who have an allergic-like reaction to the substance, can also experience a headache. However, this type of caffeine headache the least common.
If you arent intentionally quitting caffeine, the best remedy for a caffeine withdrawal headache is to consume more caffeine.
As soon as a person begins to feel a tightness behind the eyes, he/she should evaluate their recent caffeine consumption and then consume an adequate amount of caffeine to stop the withdrawal.
What Is A Caffeine Headache
A caffeine headache occurs when someone who consumes caffeine regularly skips their usual dose. This doesnt only happen to people who drink excessive amounts of caffeine every day. Even someone who just has one small cup of coffee each morning can experience caffeine headaches.
FYI, the FDA says about four 8-ounce cups of coffee or 400 milligrams a day is a safe amount to consume.
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How Much Caffeine Do You Consume Daily
A recent study suggested limiting that intake to 2 servings of a caffeinated beverage per day. Anything over seems to be the tipping point for triggering a Migraine attack.
If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker and wake up with headaches each morning , caffeine could be the problem. Regular intake above the level your body can handle is one way that an episodic migraine can become chronic. The following anecdotes from my client files show how insidious caffeine can be.
In her Headache Diary, my client Barbara reported drinking two cups of black tea per day, which seemed fine upon first glance. But when she wasnt migraine-free after implementing most of the Mundo Program, we started mining more deeply for clues. Only then did she sheepishly admit that she used three tea bags to brew each cup.
We already knew that she took two Excedrin almost daily, in total making her caffeine intake the equivalent of five to six cups of coffee per day. No wonder Barbara would wake up in the morning with full-blown migraines! Her honest revelation was the breakthrough that she needed in order to progress.
Since your seminar, little by little, Ive been getting off Excedrin and am now in my third week without it. I feel like my headache cycle is broken. Its exciting! Not only that, but the irritable bowel syndrome that had bothered me for so long is gone.