Understanding the Effects of Headache Medication Overuse

By Annette GallagherApril 30, 2020October 20th, 2021No Comments

Many people who suffer from headaches may not realize that taking too much of their headache medication can actually result in the same symptoms those medications were intended to relieve.

Migraine headaches are extremely painful and they can result in nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and a throbbing pain in the head. Those who experience migraines usually rely on several different types of treatment for relief. Prescription medications are among the most popular treatments, but there are some over-the-counter medications that can help, too.

It is important not to take too much of any of these medications. Those who do, often find that their headache medication can cause them to have more frequent, and worse, headaches. These are called “rebound headaches,” or “medication overuse headaches” and can develop into chronic migraines.

Causes of Rebound Headaches

While doctors are not completely sure what causes these medication overuse headaches, we do understand what triggers the headaches. Migraine sufferers take medication to relieve the symptoms of their migraines, but when the headaches return, they take more medication. Over time, the medication stops being beneficial and starts to make things worse. The body actually turns on the medicine and the more of it that is ingested, the worse, and more frequent, the headaches become.

Which Medicines Cause Rebound Headaches?

Typically, doctors say that any medication that is taken for migraines can cause rebound headaches. This includes over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen. It also includes ergots, triptans, analgesics and opioid medications.

If any these headache medications are taken too frequently, they can cause a rebound headache. Those who take these medications more than twice a week should speak with a specialist about their treatment options.

Treating Chronic Migraines Caused by Medication Overuse

Those who suffer from rebound headaches should first reduce their use of these medications. This should help slow the progression of these headaches and may help prevent them for occurring.

That said, many researchers believe that the best way to treat chronic migraines caused by medication-overuse is to stop taking the medications all together. It can be very difficult to go cold turkey, as sufferers would not be able to take any medications at all for several weeks while the body goes through a detoxification process.

Many migraine sufferers have had great success with the detox process. After detoxing, many people are able to begin using pain-relief medication again – without overusing it.

Houston Headache Institute

If you are suffering from chronic headaches, please contact the Houston Headache Institute. We can help ease your suffering from these recurring headaches and work on a treatment plan to prevent them from recurring.