Does Caffeine Help Relieve Headaches?
Caffeine can relieve migraine headaches, but there’s a catch.
The relationship between caffeine and headaches is complicated. The truth is that caffeine can be both a trigger and remedy for headaches, depending on how much and how frequently you consume it.
Caffeine shows up everywhere – coffee, tea, soft drinks, sports drinks, chocolate, energy bars and more – so it’s no surprise that 80-90% of American adults consume it on a near-daily basis.
Here’s what a new study reveals about how caffeine affects headaches, and how much (as well as how often) you should be consuming to get the maximum benefit.
How caffeine can relieve headaches
The pain that comes with vascular-type headaches — migraine and cluster headaches — is caused by the inflammation and enlargement of blood vessels that pass through the vertebrae in your neck and surround your brain. Inflammation of these blood vessels triggers a number of complicated mechanisms in the brain that can lead to headaches.
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which means that it constricts enlarged blood vessels. As a result, it can help relieve migraine and cluster headaches when you have them and even help prevent them from developing in the first place.
What’s the catch?
According to the American Migraine Foundation, whether caffeine can help migraines depends on how often you get them and how much caffeine you consume.
If you suffer from episodic migraines — that’s up to 14 headaches per month — caffeine can help, but only if you limit it to no more than 200mg a day. Anything above that actually increases your risk of developing more headaches or migraines.
If you suffer from daily headaches, you should avoid caffeine completely — a recommendation echoed by the National Headache Foundation as well.
How caffeine can actually cause headaches
Drinking caffeine won’t always help – for example, if you’re pounding espressos, caffeine can actually trigger a headache indirectly by causing you to become more dehydrated.
Caffeine can also lead to more headaches if you simply drink too much of it too often, as headaches are the main symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Because it’s a vasoconstrictor, once you stop consuming it regularly, those blood vessels dilate again. That expansion of blood vessels – after your body has adapted to a vasoconstricted state – can lead to migraine headaches.
So if you want to quit caffeine, don’t just abruptly stop. Taper your intake gradually over a few days. According to the American Migraine Foundation, reducing your intake by 25mg per day can help minimize caffeine withdrawal headaches.
So how much should you consume?
It’s important to consume caffeine in moderation – that means under 200 mg of caffeine per day. That’s about two cups of coffee or 8oz energy drinks.
A better solution?
Caffeine can help reduce migraine symptoms, but the truth is that it does nothing to actually address the root cause of inflammation surrounding the arteries supplying blood to your brain.
What does? There’s good evidence that chiropractic care can be more effective than even headache medications.
A recent study by Norwegian researchers found that chiropractic care significantly reduced the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms for patients suffering from chronic headaches. In fact, over the course of the study, the headache index (a rating of headache frequency x severity x duration) was reduced by almost 60% for those under regular chiropractic care.
In another recent study, over 30% of headache patients had their symptoms 100% resolved after receiving chiropractic care!
The Ascent Chiropractic Difference
At Ascent Chiropractic – your Brookfield chiropractor – we’re committed to not just relieving your headaches but to correcting their cause and optimizing your body to function better than it ever has before.
Our unique, low-force, evidence-based approach to treatment allows us to correct spinal biomechanics, restore normal function, and get you out of pain and on the road back to optimal health.
Dealing with migraine or tension headaches? Schedule an appointment by calling us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling app.