Caffeine and Headaches
Caffeine can be a double-edged sword for those with a headache: it can serve as a treatment or in some cases can cause withdrawal or a phenomenon known as “rebound” headache. The important thing to remember is that with education and moderation, caffeine can be one of the most effective treatments for headache.
Caffeine as a Headache Treatment
Caffeine is a common ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter headache medications. Because analgesics work more quickly and more efficiently with caffeine, patients are able to take less medication. Caffeine additives make pain relievers 40 percent more effective. Caffeine also helps the body absorb medications more quickly, allowing the patient to feel relief sooner. By adding caffeine and, in turn, taking less medication, the patient reduces the risk for potential side effects and reduces the risk of habitual or addictive usage.
Common Over-the-Counter Drugs Containing Caffeine
|Anacin Maximum Strength
|Anacin Tablets and Caplets
|Aspirin-Free Excedrin Caplets
|Excedrin Extra Strength Caplets and Tablets
|Goody's Extra Strength Tablets
|Goody's Headache Powder
|Midol Menstrual Maximum Strength Caplets
|NoDoz Maximum Strength
|Pain Reliever Plus Tablets
Common Prescription Drugs Containing Caffeine
|Ergotamine/Caffeine Suppositories (Migergot)
|Ergotamine/Caffeine Tablets (Cafergot )
|Fiorinal with Codeine Capsules
|Orphenadrine Compound (Norgesic )
|Orphenadrine Compound Forte (Norgesic Forte)
Note: The drugs listed are some of the more common drugs containing caffeine; all drugs containing caffeine are not included. Always check the labels of over-the-counter drugs for the caffeine content. Or, ask your health care provider or pharmacist about the caffeine content of your medications.
Food as Caffeine Sources
- Chocolate milk, chocolate milkshakes, hot chocolate and chocolate drinks.
- Cola and other sodas. Caffeine-free and decaffeinated beverages also contain small amounts of caffeine.
- Chocolate products, including candy, brownies, ice cream, and cake.
Caffeine and Withdrawal
Caffeine withdrawal from normal caffeine usage is rare. However, with excess use, over 500 mg. daily (approximately 5 cups of coffee) over a long period of time, sudden cessation could cause symptoms of withdrawal. Patients can avoid caffeine withdrawal by limiting their daily consumption, being educated about sources of caffeine and by gradually decreasing the consumption rather than ending use abruptly.
Caffeine and Rebound Headaches
Rebound headache is a condition that develops from the overuse or misuse of any headache medication, including caffeine-containing medication. While caffeine-containing medications can be beneficial, these medications, combined with consuming caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks or chocolate) from other sources, makes you more vulnerable to a rebound headache.
Relief from rebound headache can only be accomplished by completely quitting all medication – however, this should only be done under the supervision of a physician.