Caffeine is something most of us take in on a daily basis, but did you know that caffeine can both cause and treat a headache?

A caffeine headache starts just behind the eyes and then works its way to the front of the head as a throbbing sensation that can be debilitating.

What Causes a Caffeine Headache?

There are 5 primary causes of a caffeine-induced headache:

  1. Caffeine overdose
  2. Taking in several types of caffeine
  3. Caffeine withdrawal
  4. Allergy to caffeine
  5. Sensitivity to caffeine

The Benefits of Caffeine

When your head is pounding, there is nothing you want more than a quick and easy cure.  Whether it’s your usual tension headache or a full blown migraine, caffeine may be able to help.  If you take a look at OTC headache medications, and even some prescriptions, caffeine is one of the main ingredients.  Sometimes, you can even stop the pain immediately by having a cup of coffee or some other caffeinated beverage right at the onset of headache.

In addition to relieving headaches, caffeine is known for helping to reduce inflammation, which is one of the primary causes of headaches.  It gives a good boost to common OTC headache remedies, like ibuprofen, aspirin, or Tylenol. Those medications may work faster when taken with caffeine.

There is a condition called hypnic headaches, which respond great to caffeine. These are more common in the elderly and will wake them up at night with the pain.  Many times, the best treatment for these people is drinking a cup of coffee before they go to bed, or when the headache wakes them up.

The Risks of Caffeine

These are more serious, in my professional opinion. Interestingly, the same thing that relieves the headache may also be causing them. Caffeine narrows the brain’s blood vessels, so when you stop drinking or eating it, the vessels re-expand, which can lead to extreme pressure and pain.

Caffeine is highly addictive, so when you stop drinking or eating it, your body will go through withdrawals, with headache being the main symptom. Even when you have as little as just one cup of coffee a day, if you suddenly go a day or two without it, symptoms will occur.

Unfortunately, even though taking a pain reliever with caffeine can be helpful for fast relief, it can also cause immense damage if done too often. Taking pain relievers too frequently can lead to withdrawal symptoms, making the pain much worse when the medication wears off.

Furthermore, there have been a number of clinical studies that have shown the health risks of taking in too much caffeine. That should be taken into consideration when you are considering whether to stop caffeine consumption in your daily diet.

What are My Options?

Here are some things you can do to avoid caffeine-related headaches:

  • Educate yourself on how caffeine affects your body.
  • Pay close attention to how much caffeine you take in every day through either food or drink, and write it down in a journal to keep track.
  • If migraines are an issue, or if headaches are a frequent occurrence, then try cutting down on intake or avoid it completely.
  • Keep track of your symptoms in relation to caffeine intake, along with what helps.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Having a good, reliable routine will be most helpful.
  • Stay hydrated. Water usually helps a great deal with caffeine headaches.
  • Make some dietary and lifestyle changes to include more fresh fruits and veggies and physical activity at least three times a week.
  • Manage stress levels with coping mechanisms. Headaches can sometimes be beaten with relaxation techniques like massage, Yoga, or meditation.

It is important to understand that the longer you take it and the more you take in, the harder your withdrawal will be, and the longer the headache will last. This is why it is important to wean from caffeine slowly, rather than all at once, which can be exceedingly painful.

By fully understanding both the risks and benefits of caffeine consumption, you can take plenty of steps to avoid these caffeine-induced headaches. Remember, journal your caffeine intake first, along with symptoms you’re having in relation to the consumption, and then take steps to decrease intake and avoid these types of headaches all together.


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