If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines, you probably have a number of go-to prescription or over-the-counter medications that you reach for when an attack begins. What you may not know is that many of those medications can actually cause medication overuse headaches (also called rebound headaches). Who are at the greatest risk for this phenomenon? What types of medications cause headaches? Is there a natural way to battle chronic daily migraines? Read on to learn the answers.
Who Are at Risk for Medication Overuse Headaches?
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, medication overuse is one of the most common contributors to daily migraine occurrence. It starts out with a few migraines a month, progresses to a few per week, and from there the medication takes over and creates a daily condition.
Research backs this up. According to a study performed in 2014, medication overuse headaches affect 1-2% of people globally. That actually makes headaches caused by the very medications that are supposed to help people one of the most common chronic headache conditions in the world.
If you suffer from frequent headaches or migraines or have a chronic pain condition, you are in the high-risk group for experiencing medication overuse headaches.
What Types of Medication Are Most Likely to Cause Headaches?
We’re going to break down medication use that results in headaches into 5 categories:
- Analgesics – These are common, over-the-counter drugs. Analgesics include NSAIDs (like ibuprofen), aspirin, and acetaminophen. While the bottle usually discourages daily use or taking more than a certain number of pills in a 24 hour period, some disregard these warnings and view these medications as safe simply because a prescription is not required. Misuse or overuse of analgesics is a common cause of rebound headaches.
- Combining pain relievers – Some patients combine the pain relievers noted above or take a pain reliever that combines acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine, and other drugs in one pill. Combination pain relievers need to be used even more sparingly than analgesics as they can lead to rebound headaches more quickly.
- Triptans – Triptans are specifically prescribed for conditions like migraines and cluster headaches. Use of these drugs should be limited to no more than 10 days per month in order to avoid medication overuse headaches. Unfortunately, some patients use them daily.
- Opioids – These heavy-duty painkillers need to be used very sparingly. They can lead to rebound headaches and are also highly addictive. More headaches could occur when a person comes off of the medication due to withdrawal.
- Caffeine – Most people don’t think of caffeine as a drug since it occurs naturally and is in many beverages. However, caffeine can lead to daily headaches if more than 200 mg are consumed per day. Also, a person may experience headaches when coming off of caffeine.
Combating Medication Overuse Headaches
If you take any of the above medications more than a time or two per week, you may be surprised to learn just how many of your headaches are being caused by the drugs. The only way to know for sure is to stop taking the medication. Of course, patients are often reluctant to do this, especially if the medication is still providing temporary relief during an attack. As a result, some people try changing their medication to another type. This allows the body to clear out the medication that was causing the headaches. However, using the new medication on a regular basis will lead to the same problem, so this is a very temporary fix. Medication use usually needs to be limited to no more than a couple of times per week to see results.
A Better Way to Find Headache Relief
Rather than taking medications that can actually cause the problem they are meant to relieve, some are turning to natural forms of care. Is there anything that really helps? We’d like to introduce you to upper cervical chiropractic care.
Upper cervical chiropractic is a niche in the chiropractic industry that involves extremely precise and gentle adjustments to the top bones of the spine. The position of these bones is particularly important when it comes to headache conditions. This is because the C1 and C2 can affect blood flow to the brain, cerebrospinal fluid drainage, and even brainstem function. These are all factors that are related to migraines and headaches.
Some have found that correcting this misalignment reduces or lessens the severity of attacks. Others have received complete relief right from their first or second adjustment. There are many case studies that back up the efficacy of upper cervical chiropractic care for headaches and migraines. While there are a number of methods that upper cervical chiropractors use, they all have a few things in common:
- Precise measurements using diagnostic imaging
- Gentle, low-force corrections
- Long-lasting benefits that make for cost effective care
If this sounds like an alternative you would like to try, we encourage you to find an upper cervical practice in your area. Most offices offer a no-obligation consultation. You may find that you are a good candidate for care, especially if you have a history of head or neck trauma or if neck pain frequently accompanies your headaches. However, these other conditions do not need to exist in order to give upper cervical chiropractic a try.
To learn more, schedule a visit today. Perhaps you too can go from experiencing chronic daily headaches to being completely headache free.
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