How Medicines Could be Making Your Headaches Worse

Do you have chronic headaches? Did you know they can be caused by NSAIDs?

Chronic Headaches

The Problem…

Many of us who experience chronic headaches simply pop a couple of NSAIDs (as needed) and keep on working. Same?

So, What are NSAIDs?

NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are a class of medications that relieve pain, reduce swelling and provide relief from other symptoms associated with inflammation. (i.e. aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.)

They are one of the most common therapeutic options available to people for managing mild to moderate aches and pains. (My old go-to.)

NSAIDs work by blocking the prostaglandins that cause inflammation. Therefore they help provide relief from even stubborn pains from arthritis, sprains and muscle strains. [More about NSAIDs]

Understanding that, and it may seem obvious but I wondered…

Are Chronic Headaches Caused by Inflammation?

Until recently, it wasn’t known what caused headaches, including chronic headaches, and how best to relieve them. However modern medical science has shed some light on the situation.

It has now been confirmed that headaches are indeed an inflammatory condition. They are typically due to the weakening of blood vessels in the brain, causing an influx of pain signals that can lead to tremendous amounts of discomfort.

This is the reason NSAIDs seem to work so well for relief.

You may be thinking there are a lot of possible reasons we get chronic headaches. If you’re like me, I don’t often go to the doctor’s office to complain about something that seems like a common condition.

It’s just something you live with, right?

After all, like me, many people work sitting (or standing) at a desk for long hours each day. It can be difficult to maintain good posture. The result is a highly probable cause of inflammation and chronic headaches.

It’s true. Poor posture puts strain on our bodies, which results in muscle tension and reduces oxygen flow to our brain.

There are simple solutions, such as using an ergonomic chair, taking frequent breaks, including stretches throughout the day, and learning proper posture techniques that can help to reduce this symptom.

But what is it many of us do..? Pop a couple more NSAIDs… again!

But wait!


If You Take NSAIDs Often, Listen Up!

I took a lot of them for many years. Not so much anymore! And here’s why…

Recently, I learned that when NSAIDs are used regularly for the treatment of headaches, they can actually cause the body to become dependent on them.

This happens because the drugs work by blocking enzymes that cause inflammation in the brain, but when taken too often, these enzymes build up in the body and can trigger even more headaches.

This is why it is important to use NSAIDs only when necessary and not as a regular habit.

If you suffer from chronic headaches, it could be the condition called Rebound Headaches (also known as Medication Overuse Headache or MOH).

The most common cause of rebound (chronic) headaches is the overuse of medications like Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).

NSAIDs and Chronic Headaches

Avoiding Rebound Chronic Headaches

The best way to avoid rebound headaches is to reduce your reliance on NSAIDs and find other ways to manage your pain.

For mild headaches, instead of popping pills, simple lifestyle changes, such as exercising more frequently, or getting enough sleep, can help reduce their frequency.

There are also helpful vitamins and minerals which have been proven to reduce the intensity and frequency of headaches.

  • Magnesium helps relax tense muscles
  • Vitamin B12 boosts energy levels
  • Vitamin C reduces inflammation in the brain
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help improve nerve function

Taking these vitamins and minerals regularly can help to build up a tolerance and keep chronic headaches much more manageable. So, your diet also plays a role in the condition. Since inflammation causes headaches, why not eat more foods rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients, too?

But, before we go any further, I do recommend that you talk to your doctor about treatments that could help reduce your headache frequency.

You could also consider such treatments as biofeedback[1], cognitive behavioral therapy[2], or acupuncture[3]. Let’s talk briefly about those…

1. How Does Biofeedback Therapy Help?

Biofeedback is a fascinating tool that has gained more and more popularity in recent years. It is a non-invasive, drug-free therapeutic practice that utilizes modern technology to measure physiological activities such as heart rate, brain waves, and muscle tension.

By providing real-time information about the body’s inner working, biofeedback gives individuals greater control over their physical and mental responses to bring about meaningful and beneficial changes.

It is unique in its ability to offer people insight into their own well-being. Now that’s a privilege not many of us can say we enjoy. With biofeedback, the power of self-transformation is in our hands!

2. How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective psychotherapeutic approach that helps individuals explore their emotions and think more positively.

Developed by therapists, it focuses on understanding the role that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors have in contributing to distress. CBT helps to identify and challenge unrealistic beliefs or thought patterns underlying distressing symptoms and replace these with healthier ones over time.

It is a powerful tool that has been proven to help individuals suffering from chronic headaches reclaim their lives. Providing them with more adequate methods for dealing with the mental health aspect of this unfortunately common condition works!

CBT can alter problematic behavior patterns associated with pain, modify inappropriate coping styles, and reduce the intensity, duration and frequency of headache episodes.

It also promotes healthy lifestyle choices, helps manage stress levels, boost self-confidence levels, and provides better insight into one’s condition as well as how to manage it more effectively.

3. How does Acupuncture work in relieving chronic headaches?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that has been used to treat many ailments, including chronic headaches.

It works by stimulating specific points along the body’s 12 pathways known as meridians. By stimulating these points, endorphins – our body’s natural painkiller – can be released into the system helping to reduce muscle aches and tension in the head that cause headaches.

Acupuncture doesn’t just work at a physical level; it also helps address underlying emotional and mental issues linked to headaches by triggering biochemical balance within the body and calming the nervous system.

Therefore, a good treatment plan for someone seeking relief from chronic headaches might include acupuncture. Of course, alongside changes to lifestyle such as a healthier diet and regular exercise.

Headaches and NSAIDs

Life Without Chronic Headaches

Yes, headaches are a commonly experienced nuisance we all have to deal with, chronic or otherwise. It may be as a minor annoyance or a full-on migraine. Either way, it’s hard to live with such a condition. And, as we’ve discussed, overusing medications like NSAIDs can cause rebound headaches or MOH.

It’s important for those of you who suffer from frequent headaches to understand how these medications work and why it’s important not to rely too heavily upon them.

There are lots of other ways that you can treat your pain without having to resort to medication. Consider lifestyle changes – such as exercise and sleep – all the way through acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy, and other methods you may find of interest.

All I ask is to make sure you explore other potentially life-changing options before turning back towards using medication and possibly making it even worse in the long run!

Wishing you an end to your headaches and a brighter future!