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Why Does Caffeine Help Migraines

Caffeine May Help Relieve Headaches

The pain you experience with headaches specifically migraines is typically caused by the enlargement of blood vessels around your brain, which increases the amount of blood flow to your brain. This change in blood flow triggers a number of complicated mechanisms in the brain that can lead to headaches.

Caffeine narrows these blood vessels and is known to have “vasoconstrictive” properties. This means that it constricts vessels and reduces the blood flow to your brain, and as a result, it can help relieve migraine pain.

For example, a 2009 study published in the Human Brain Mapping Journal found that caffeine reduced cerebral blood flow that’s the blood supply to the brain by an average of 27%.

In this way, caffeine can help stop you from developing migraines in the first place, as well as relieving pain once you already have one.

Caffeine can also help relieve headaches by improving the effectiveness of pain relief medication. In fact, it’s a key ingredient in headache medications like and , because it helps you absorb the active ingredients in the medication.

For example, a 2017 review published in The Journal of Headache and Pain studied the results of seven different controlled trials on patients who suffered from migraines or tension-type headaches over a 40-year period. The researchers found that over-the-counter pain relief medication containing caffeine works faster and more effectively than pain relief medication alone.

Experts Answer: Does Caffeine Cause Or Cure Headaches

Each week, MyHealthNewsDaily asks the experts to answer questions about your health.

This week, we asked neurologists and headache specialists: Does caffeine cause headaches, or cure them?

Laura M. Juliano, director of Behavioral Pharmacology and Health Promotion at American University, Washington, DC:

“There have been some case reports of people experiencing headache after drinking caffeine, but in general caffeine does not directly cause headaches.

“Regular caffeine consumption leads to physical dependence on caffeine, which manifests as withdrawal symptoms when a caffeine user abruptly stops using caffeine. A diffuse throbbing headache is a hallmark feature of caffeine withdrawal. The reason for this is that one of the pharmacological effects of caffeine is a constriction of blood vessels in the brain.

“When someone regularly drinks caffeine, the body adjusts in essence fighting this effect. Then when caffeine isn’t consumed the result is that blood vessels dilate too much, which causes a headache. It takes a little while for the body to readjust to not having caffeine and that is why caffeine withdrawal headaches can persist for a week or more. A person doesn’t have to be a very heavy caffeine user to experience a caffeine withdrawal headache. It varies from person to person but even as little as a small cup of coffee each day could lead to withdrawal if someone stops caffeine abruptly.

“If someone is headache-prone, they should avoid using caffeine regularly.”



Natural Remedies For Migraines

There is a very complex relationship between migraine and coffee. Migraine cures, at this point, dont really exist. According to the National Institutes of Health, exactly why they occur, and exactly what can be done to prevent and treat them, is misunderstood. That said, some treatments have been observed to work in certain individuals. These treatments include both natural and pharmaceutical options.

The following natural options might help you deal with the migraine headaches, whether by preventing them or reducing the duration or symptom strength.

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, , and . Switching to noncaffeinated alternatives, such as herbal tea, with fruit juice, and 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:

How Much Caffeine Will Help With Migraines

why does caffeine help headaches

Dont put your mug away so fast. According to research from the American Journal of Medicine, for patients who experience episodic migraines, one to two servings of caffeine may limit headache occurrence throughout the day. Once a person reaches three or more servings, though, thats where you can run into trouble.

Key Points About Caffeine And Migraines

  • Caffeine affects pain.
  • Acute treatment of headaches with caffeine is sometimes effective but should be limited to not more than two days per week.
  • For people who experience migraine, caffeine taken three or more days per week, for whatever reason, may lead to dependency and increased migraine frequency.
  • For those who have frequent headaches, avoidance of all caffeine is ideal, and at least until improvement in headache frequency is seen.

Migrainepatients often report that a strong cup of coffee can stop some attacks. 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 bodys 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 better than placebo, and as good as acetaminophen, in relieving tension-type headaches.

We dont fully understand the mechanisms underlying the different effects of caffeine on the brain. However, the specific targets of action of caffeine in the brain and nerves outside the brain are known.

Robert E. Shapiro, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT.

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How Does Caffeine Work On Migraine Pain

Caffeine affects a brain chemical called adenosine. Adenosine is found naturally in human cells. During a migraine attack, adenosine levels go up. This causes brain blood vessels to widen, reduce electrical activity, and change other body functions. Caffeine can block some of these actions, reducing head pain.1

Many studies have tried to reveal the secrets of how caffeine affects migraine attacks. One small study found caffeine worked better than a placebo and as well as acetaminophen for tension headaches.1

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.

Caffeines Effects On Pain And Non

There is evidence that caffeine may reduce pain sensation through its effects on adenosine receptors . The antinociceptive effects of caffeine may be explained by an inhibition of cyclooxygenase activity as well as adenosine receptor antagonism. Caffeine acts not only by central blocking of adenosine receptors, which affects pain signaling, but also by blocking peripheral adenosine receptors on sensory afferents . It was demonstrated that a 200 mg caffeine dose can inhibit the analgesic effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation . Caffeine combined with a standard dose of analgesics led to an increased proportion of individuals with a satisfactory level of pain relief . Laska et al. found that, in combination with paracetamol or aspirin, caffeine reduced the amount of analgesic needed to reach the same effect by approximately 40% . Other clinical effects in these patients may be linked with the promotion of the absorption of analgesics by rapid lowering of gastric pH. Nevertheless, meta-analyses of caffeine combined with ibuprofen, paracetamol, or acetylic acid found only weak adjuvant effects in patients with postoperative pain .

Is Your Headache Related To Caffeine Withdrawal

If your headache occurs a few hours after you last consumed caffeine or missed your normal cup of coffee or energy drink, that could be a sign that its related to a caffeine deficit, says Spears.

Typically, the mid-to-late morning is a common time for a caffeine withdrawal headache, because a lot of people with start their day with coffee or something like that, he says.

A caffeine withdrawal headache can feel different from a migraine attack, he says. The headache has a mild to moderate profile, and it tends to not have the migraine-like features, says Spears.


A Headache Caffeine Connection The Good News

Caffeine has long been used as a headache remedy. But why does it help?

Migraine sufferers may be especially interested in the way caffeine constricts blood vessels. Blood vessels increasing in size is one of the common occurrences when you’re having a migraine. Many migraine medications focus on getting the blood vessels back to their normal size before they wreak havoc on the nerves around them. Some migraine sufferers find that a coffee or coke early on in their headache will keep it at bay.

In medications, caffeine seems to increase the value of the painkillers also. This is why it’s afton included various types of , for example.

As a stimulant, it may be that that little pick-me-up is all you need to keep a headache from hitting. This is compounded by the sugar added to coffee or found in colas.

Why Does Caffeine Help With Headaches

a headachemigrainecaffeine

Caffeine can provide some headache relief. For example, one small controlled study found that caffeine was better than placebo, and as good as acetaminophen, in relieving tension-type headaches. However, with daily or near-daily caffeine exposure, the brain may develop a tolerance for the drug.

Additionally, how much caffeine does it take to get rid of a headache? Cleveland Clinic recommends limiting the use of pain relievers and reducing caffeine consumption to the equivalent of two cups of coffee a day. If you experience rebound headaches, you can only treat them fully by coming off all headache medications.

Consequently, does caffeine help tension headaches?

When your head hurts, you want relief fast. Whether it’s a run-of-the-mill tension headache or a migraine, caffeine can help. That’s why it’s an ingredient in a lot of popular pain relievers. It can make them as much as 40% more effective.

Can caffeine cause migraines?

Caffeine doesn’t cause headaches, but it can trigger what’s known as caffeine rebound. This occurs when you consume too much caffeine and subsequently experience withdrawal from it. The side effects can be severe, sometimes worse than a typical headache or migraine itself.

How Are Migraines Treated

why does caffeine help headaches

Migraine headaches and their triggers can vary a lot between people. Treatment can depend on how severe the headaches are, how often they happen, and what symptoms a person gets with them.

Usually it helps to lie down in a cool, dark, quiet room. Your doctor may prescribe pain relief medicine or medicines that help with nausea and vomiting. Some people need preventive medicines that are taken every day to reduce the number and severity of the migraines.

Some doctors teach a technique called biofeedback to their patients with migraines. This helps a person learn to relax and use the brain to gain control over certain body functions that cause tension and pain. If a migraine begins slowly, some people can use biofeedback to remain calm and stop the attack.

Adding other non-medicine therapies to the treatment plan, such as acupuncture or herbs, helps some people with migraines. But ask your health care provider about these before trying them. This is especially true of herbal treatments because they can affect how other medicines work.

Tracking Headaches And Caffeine Consumption Can Help

If I have patients with chronic migraine or chronic headaches, I usually recommend that they track their headaches and then try to do some type of step down as far as caffeine use, says Spears.

This doesnt mean going cold turkey, he adds. That would most likely send them into a severe headache situation. I recommended maybe decreasing caffeine on one or two days every week to see if it makes a difference, he says.

If the patient is in the episodic migraine category less than 15 days per month then I recommend keeping track of how they use caffeine, and how it relates to their migraine attacks, he says.

Paying attention to whether it seems to ward off or shorten an attack versus whether it seems to trigger migraine can help determine whether reducing or eliminating caffeine is the best way to proceed, Spears explains.

Caffeine And Primary Headachesfriend Or Foe

  • 1Nordland Hospital Trust, Bod, Norway
  • 2Institute of Clinical Medicine, The Arctic University of Norway, Troms, Norway
  • 3Headache Research, Wolfson CARD, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 4The Headache Centre, Guy’s and St Thomas’, NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom

Background: The actions of caffeine as an antagonist of adenosine receptors have been extensively studied, and there is no doubt that both daily and sporadic dietary consumption of caffeine has substantial biological effects on the nervous system. Caffeine influences headaches, the migraine syndrome in particular, but how is unclear.

Materials and Methods: This is a narrative review based on selected articles from an extensive literature search. The aim of this study is to elucidate and discuss how caffeine may affect the migraine syndrome and discuss the potential pathophysiological pathways involved.

I am not acquainted with any agents which equal these substances , in the power of removing headache without leaving inconvenient results. And as their physiological action is so purely cerebral, restoring the intellectual faculties, and ministering to the sensations of well-being, as well as lessening any sad emotions, we have here an adequate presumption, were any required, that this headache is seated in the nerves, which are immediately related with the molecular action of the brain.

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.

For one thing, caffeine makes you urinate more often, which could lead to dehydration and noggin pain. Caffeine can also potentially cause chronic daily headaches or intensify a primary headache .

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 About Caffeine And Other Types Of Headaches

Even those who dont 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 its 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.

Withdrawal Headache Or Something Else

People often describe caffeine withdrawal headaches as a widespread, throbbing head pain. The International Headache Society defines a caffeine withdrawal headache as a headache that:

  • develops within 24 hours after last consuming caffeine in people who consume at least 200 milligrams per day of caffeine for more than 2 weeks
  • goes away after 7 consecutive days of not consuming caffeine
  • improves within 1 hour of consuming 100 mg of caffeine

Doctors may also diagnose someone with a caffeine withdrawal headache if their symptoms do not match those of other types of headache.

Ever Get Hit With A Headache On A Saturday Skipping Your Daily Coffee Can Cause Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches Discover Why It Happens And How To Avoid It

When I worked 12-hour night shifts as a transplant nurse, I relied on a caffeine fix to relieve my tension headaches and give me an extra pick me up. My headaches came roaring back on my off days, though, thanks to caffeine withdrawal.

Are you one of the 80% of Americans who grabs a coffee cup shortly after waking up? Do you ever get headaches and use caffeine to relieve your pain? If so, keep reading to learn how to stay out of the danger zone of caffeine headaches.

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.

How To Get Rid Of A Caffeine Headache

Why Are Caffeine Withdrawals So Painful?

It can be hard quitting caffeine; in fact,  show that more than 90 percent of people with caffeine dependence struggle to quit due to side effects. That doesnt mean it cant be done, you just need to have patience and should expect your body to take time to adjust.

Tips for Cutting Back or Weaning Off of Caffeine:

  • Dont try to quit cold turkey, which can quickly trigger withdrawal effects. Reduce caffeine intake slowly, by 25 percent each week. Aim to cut yourself off of caffeine over the course of several weeks for the least withdrawal effects.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration. Aim to drink at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day.
  • Be careful about sneaky sources of caffeine. Check ingredient labels of teas, chocolate, non-cola sodas and even decaf coffee.
  • Take a pain medication if needed, but choose one that doesnt contain caffeine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen .
  • Apply a drop of peppermint essential oil to your head where it hurts.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest. While your body adjusts, try to give yourself an hour of extra sleep per night.
  • Eat a nutrient-dense diet and skip refined grains and too much sugar, since this will help to keep your energy up.
  • Get moving. Exercising is a natural way to lift your energy and mood.
  • Consider taking CBD oil to help you deal with discomfort, or applying a topical CBD balm.

So Can Caffeine Really Cause A Migraine

The short answer? Yes.

Let us explain: While have found no proof that drinking caffeine will automatically trigger a migraine, Dr. Crystal warns that the stimulant is still one to be wary of.

Caffeine withdrawal is a known trigger for migraine and other headache types, and caffeine itself may trigger migraines,? Dr. Crystal says.

Migraine triggers are unique for everyone, but studies show that when it comes to caffeine, the amount consumed may have more weight in whether or not you develop a headache. from the American Journal of Medicine shows that three or more servings of caffeinated beverages a day is associated with developing a migraine in individuals who experience episodic migraines.

A New Study About Coffee And Migraines: How Much Is Too Much

In a new study published in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers asked 98 people with migraines to keep a diet diary that included how often they consumed caffeinated beverages . This information was compared with how often they had migraines. Heres what they found:

  • The odds of having a migraine increased for those drinking three or more caffeinated beverages per day, but not for those consuming one to two servings per day; the effect lasted through the day after caffeine consumption.
  • It seemed to take less caffeine to trigger a headache in those who didnt usually have much of it. Just one or two servings increased the risk of migraine in those who usually had less than one serving per day.
  • The link between caffeine consumption and migraine held up even after accounting for other relevant factors such as alcohol consumption, sleep, and physical activity.

Interestingly, the link was observed regardless of whether the study subject believed that caffeine triggered their headaches.

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 To Reduce Caffeine Dependence

The best way to reduce caffeine dependency is gradually, ideally, by cutting down on caffeine intake by around 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
  • staying hydrated

Caffeine What It Does To You

Since you’re reading this you probably already know that caffeine is a stimulant found in drinks such as coffee, tea, colas and other soft drinks. Caffeine is put in certain drugs such as Cafergot, Fiorinol, Dristan and Excedrin.

Being a stimulant, caffeine works on the central nervous system and makes you more alert. But that’s not all. It also acts as a vasoconstrictor , as a diuretic, and it may even increase blood pressure. It can cause other reactions in some people. Though usually not classified as an addictive drug, caffeine can be addictive in the sense that you can experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it.

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 .

A Major Health Problem

Migraine headaches are very common and are a major health problem across the planet. Just in the United States, there are about 38 million migraine patients, both adults and children, says the Migraine Research Foundation. That is about 1 in 4 households with people prone to migraines.

Many people do not realize how serious and debilitating migraine can be, the foundation writes. In addition to attack-related disability, migraine interferes with a sufferers ability to function in everyday life, whether that is going to school or work, caring for family or enjoying social activities.

And so far, all of the efforts of researchers, pharmacologists and doctors to combat this terrible illness have not come up with a cure. But there are some things that help, including caffeine.


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