What are Medication Overuse Headaches?

What are Medication Overuse Headaches?

September 23, 2022

Are you or a loved one suffering from regular headaches and/or migraines and want to find a solution? If you often take pain relievers for your headaches, you may be suffering from something called “medication overuse headaches”. Read more about this ailment and how you can treat it as well as come up with a more sustainable solution for your headaches. 

Medication overuse headaches, also known as “rebound headaches” are common for individuals who regularly take headache medications, often for migraine headaches. These usually occur after long-term use of a particular pain reliever, which is intended for occasional use for headaches. If overused (more than 2x weekly), this may trigger medication overuse headaches. 

What Causes Medication Overuse Headaches?

Medication overuse headaches can be caused by taking any medication used for pain relief for a headache disorder. Even if you do not suffer from a headache disorder, overuse of any pain relieving medication can cause a rebound headache. This is true for individuals who suffer from arthritis and similar conditions. They may begin to experience headaches unexpectedly, likely from overusing their medication. 

Rebound headaches usually end once the use of the medication has ended. Individuals may experience a withdrawal period after stopping the medication, which may make the beginning stage of this process difficult. However, withdrawal symptoms will eventually subside, and will no longer feel the same dependence on pain relievers. Consult your doctor if symptoms do not subside or you need additional assistance to stop taking your pain medication. 

Symptoms of Medication Overuse Headaches

Medication overuse headache signs and symptoms may differ depending on the type of headache or other pain that is being treated as well as the specific type of medication used. Although, general symptoms of medication overuse headaches include: 

  • Experiencing headaches almost daily, usually being woken up with pain in the early morning.
  • Headaches improve with pain medication but then quickly return when the medication wears off, sometimes even worse than when it began. 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Problems with memory

What is Rebound Vasodilation?

Rebound Vasodilation is the process that occurs when migraines cause the blood vessels to swell. Certain migraine-relieving drugs, such as triptans, act on these blood vessels by constricting them. This temporarily alleviates the painful swelling, thinking you have given yourself relief. When the drug wears off, the blood vessels react by swelling even more than before. This process causes your Migraines to get WORSE over time, not better, and also blocks your ability to respond to preventative treatment. In short, the medication that you are taking to “relieve” your is only acting as a short-term pacifier, which it will cause your headaches and migraines to get worse if you do not stop using these medications.

      What is a More Effective Solution for Migraines?

      At Universus Physical Therapy & Wellness, offering headache treatment on Long Island, we believe in getting to the root cause of the issue. This involves a full, comprehensive evaluation of the whole body to determine what may be an underlying cause of your head pain and migraines. Many times, an underlying neck issue is the main cause of headaches and migraines in 90% of individuals who suffer. 

      It is also important to be aware of your trigger level and threshold. These two determinants will be the reason the migraine is activated. The primary determinant of migraine activity is the trigger level which may vary from person to person. The secondary determinant of a migraine is the threshold, a present level of trigger input at which the mechanism will be activated. This could be hereditary and differ from person to person. If the total trigger level rises above the threshold, the migraine mechanism will be activated.

      How Can I Control My Headaches and Migraines?

      Reduce Your Trigger Exposure

      Reduce dietary triggers i.e. caffeine, chocolate, MSG, processed meats/fish, dairy, alcohol, aspartame, and soy. You should also be aware of reactive hypoglycemia, which is eating less to lose weight. Instead, try frequent, small meals with more protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. It is very important to try to reduce stress and sleep deprivation.

      Some prescription medications directly stimulate the migraine control center. You may experience headaches months after starting taking the medication. It is also crucial to consider whether a certain medication is absolutely necessary for your health. 

      Examples of potential migraine-causing medicine include: 

      • Birth control or hormone replacement therapy 
      • Ritalin 
      • Diet pills 
      • Viagra 
      • Prozac
      • Cymbalta
      • Wellbutrin
      • Prilosec

      Raise Your Threshold

      Ask your Neurologist about preventative medicine if you have severe Migraines. You can also raise your threshold by changing lifestyle habits like increasing exercise to a regular basis (3-4x a week for 30 minutes) as well as eating non-inflammatory foods. Try herbal supplements i.e. magnesium oxide, CoQ10, Vit C, Vit D, Zinc, and Quercetin. You can also perform daily stretches to keep your neck and back muscles loose. It is also helpful to keep your stress response low by training your brain through meditation and similar mindfulness methods. 

      More examples of triggers include:

      • Hormones
      • Sensory stimulus
      • Barometric pressure changes
      • Alcohol- particularly red wine
      • Caffeine- coffee, tea, soda, chocolate

      How Can Universus Physical Therapy &Wellness Help You?

      At our clinic, we do not just specialize in physical therapy, but treating the whole person, instead of just the parts. We believe through our holistic methods, that we have the ability to positively alter any issue in the body. As the body is one interconnected system, we believe that EVERY issue has a root cause. And it is our job to find that root cause and help treat it so that your body can return to functioning normally. 

      Get Headache Treatment on Long Island TODAY!

      Looking for headache treatment on Long Island? You can find that here and so much more. Our team takes pride in treating our patients’ pain so that they can have a more fulfilling life with their loved ones. Contact us today to get a FREE consultation (a.k.a. Discovery Visit), you can do this by simply visiting our website or giving us a call at (631) 533-2888. We look forward to working with you! 

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