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Rebound Headaches: When Your Pain Medication Turns on You

Over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen have been around for years now. They don’t get you high and they’re not addictive, which is why they are included in the list of controlled substances which one would need a prescription for. While these drugs are considered safe for general use, there is always a limit when it comes to taking them for purposes of pain relief.

If you’ve tried taking over-the-counter pain killers for a headache longer than the recommended time, then you might have noticed that your headaches are getting worse instead of getting better. Those who do the same for other forms of pain may find that these medications lose their efficacy and they begin to develop a headache they otherwise never had before. This is known as medication overuse headaches, simply called rebound headaches by many.

A rebound headache is caused when the body gets used to the drugs we put into it. When we experience pain, we take a pill to relieve it. As time passes, our bodies require a larger dosage in order to work, and sooner or later, the drugs stop working and they rebound on us and become the cause of the headaches. This type of headache often happens to people who self-medicate and do not consult their doctors when symptoms persist even after taking the maximum allowed dose of the drug for more than a few days. Overmedication is a vicious cycle that is hard to break. You experience pain without taking medication, but sooner or later you may experience pain even when medicated.

Treatment and Prevention of Rebound Headaches

Preventing rebound headaches is still the best thing to do. This is mainly because treating this type of headache can cause you more pain and discomfort than before you began taking over-the-counter medications to relieve the pain. To treat rebound headaches, doctors often ask their patients to abstain from taking any form of medication which can contribute further to the headaches. This may mean weeks of experiencing moderate to severe headaches without the help of any form of analgesic. For some people, this period of withdrawal doesn’t last too long, but for others it may take more time to get our bodies up to speed. In cases of severe and debilitating headaches, doctors may put their patients on other medications to ease the pain while weaning off the drugs that caused the rebound headaches in the first place.

To prevent rebound headaches from happening in the first place, it’s important for people know what type of headache they have in order to get proper treatment. Headache patients should also read the label on the boxes or bottles of pain medications they take. The labels and inserts contain very important information about drug interactions and the maximum dosage allowed before seeking medical assistance for persistent pain.

To avoid the cycle of overmedication, it’s always a good idea to call your doctor for advice, especially in cases where the headache does not respond to the medications.

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