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Could Painkillers be Causing Your Headache?

People who suffer from chronic or severe headaches always make sure that there’s an ample supply of over-the-counter pain medications in their medicine cabinets. Taking an aspirin or two to relieve the pain has become second nature to those who experience the pain of headaches regularly. Little do they know that the same thing that provides them relief time and time again may also be causing the pain in the first place.

What is a Rebound Headache?

People who misuse or overuse pain medication often suffer from medication overuse headaches, more commonly known as rebound headaches. This type of headache happens when a person takes pain medication for an extended period of time. As time passes, the medication loses its efficacy and the pain gets worse. This type of headache is common to people who experience regular or chronic tension-type headaches or migraines. The more they self-medicate, the worse their headaches get. Rebound headaches often begin after taking over-the-counter pain medications for 10-15 days consecutively. Studies done by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) show that one in every 50 people who take painkillers for their headaches suffer from rebound headaches. People who treat muscle pain or other painful symptoms for an extended period of time are also susceptible to rebound headaches. How taking too much painkillers affect the brain and the blood vessels surrounding it still hasn’t been determined yet.

Treating Rebound Headaches

Patients who are diagnosed with rebound headaches are advised to stop taking medications immediately. For a patient, going off medication cold turkey isn’t the easiest thing to do. Patients often go through a period of withdrawal wherein they experience more frequent and more intense headaches than they did before they stopped medicating. This may last for several weeks, or in extreme cases, even up to a month. Most doctors recommend alternative pain relieving methods to help ease the pain of chronic headaches for people who are susceptible to medication-overuse headaches. Here are some alternatives to over-the-counter medications chronic headache sufferers can try for pain relief.

  • Acupuncture – While this may still be considered as alternative medicine by some, acupuncture has been used to treat a lot of different ailments since ancient times. Through the years, there has been enough evidence collected to say that this treatment method is effective in treating and preventing tension type headaches and migraines.
  • Relaxation Exercises – Practicing yoga and other relaxation exercises can help reduce the stress and tension which can lead to chronic tension type headaches.
  • Herbal Remedies – When pharmaceutical-grade medication fails to provide pain relief, it’s a good idea to turn to nature to find a solution. Herbal tea made out of chamomile, ginger, lemon balm and other medicinal herbs with anti-inflammatory properties can help soothe the pain of a headache.

The best way to deal with a rebound headache is to prevent it. Most over-the-counter pain medications have a warning against overusing or misusing the products on its label. If pain persists despite taking pain medications, it’s best to consult a doctor or a headache specialist in order to get proper diagnosis and treatment.