Rebound Headaches

1 What are Rebound Headaches?

Rebound headaches or medication-overuse headaches are caused by regular and commonly long-term use headache treating medication used to treat condition such as migraines.

Occasional headaches are relieved by by pain relievers. Taking these drugs for more than two days a week  may trigger rebound headaches.

It seems that any medication that can be used for pain relief can cause rebound headaches, but only on if one already has a headache disorder.

Some pain relievers taken for different conditions such as arthritis, have not given any signs od causing rebound headaches in people who have never experience a headache disorder.

Reboud headaches usually cease upon the stoppage of taking pain medication.

However, doctors can help their patients beat reboun headaches for long-term relief.

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2 Symptoms

The signs and symtoms of rebound headaches are not uniform, they differ according to the type of headache initially treated and the medication used to treat it.

Rebound headaches tend to occur  almost every day, they are often invloved with waking someone up early in the morning.

They can improve with pain relief medication but slowly return as the medication taken wears off.

Several other signs and symptoms my include:

It is very common to experience occasional headaches. It is very vital to always take the headaches seriously as sometimes they can be life-threatening.

Always seek immediate medical care if headaches are sudden and severe, if they accompany

It is also advisable to seek help if the headache follows a head injury or gets worse despite any rest and pain medication.

3 Causes

Rebound headaches are caused when one frequently uses headache medication. The risk of developing medication-overuse headaches varies, it depends solely on the medication.

Any headache medication has the ability to cause rebound headaches. Simple pain relievers like asprin and acetaminophen may contribute to developing rebound head aches especially if recommended dosages have been exceeded.

Other pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Montrin and others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) have a low risk of playing a part to medication-overuse headaches.

Over-the-counter medications that combine caffeine asprin and acetaminophen are a common cause of rebound headaches.

Other drugs in this category include prescription medications such as Fiorinal, which contains a sedative known as butalbital.Compounds that contal butalbital have a high risk of causing rebound headaches.

It is therfore not advisable for them to be used in the treatment of headaches.

4 Making a Diagnosis

The diagnosis of rebound headache usually is based on a history of chronic headache and frequent use of medication. Testing usually isn't important.

It is a common first step to first consult a family doctor or a general practioner. Later on, on may be referred to a doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders.

Important information that can aid one get ready for an appointment includes the follwing:

What you can do?

  • Keep a headache diary.
  • Write down your symptoms, even those that seem unrelated to headaches.
  • Note what you were doing, eating or drinking before the headache began, how long the headache lasted, and the medications and amounts you took to treat the headache.
  • Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes.

List questions to ask your doctor

For rebound headaches, some questions to ask your doctor include:

  • How could I cause a headache with medicine I took to treat a headache?
  • Could there be other reasons for my headaches?
  • How can I stop these headaches?
  • Are there alternatives to the approach you're suggesting?
  • If my original headaches return, how can I treat them?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material I can have?
  • What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask any other questions.

What to expect from your doctor?

The doctor will ask questions about your headaches, such as when they started and what they feel like.

The more the doctor knows about your headaches and medication use, the better care he or she will be able to provide.

Your doctor may ask:

  • What type of headache do you usually have?
  • Have your headaches changed in the past six months?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What headache medications do you use, and how often?
  • Have you increased the amount or frequency of taking them?
  • What side effects have you had from medications?
  • Does anything help improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • What you can doin the meantime Until your appointment, take your medication only as directed by your doctor, and take care of yourself?

Living a healthy lifestyle that includes getting enough sleep, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and getting regular exercise can help prevent headaches.

Avoid any known headache triggers. A headache diary can be very helpful for your doctor. Keep track of when your headaches occur, their severity and duration, what you were doing when the headache began, and what your response to the headache was.

5 Treatment

Several treatment methods are used for rebound headaches.

It is very important to restrict one's pain medication to break the cycle of rebound headaches. A doctor can usually recommend his patient to stop taking a particular type of medication depending on the drug he or she is taking.

This stoppage may be an immediate or gradual decrease in the dose. Headaches usually get worse before they begin to heal when the cycle is broken and an individual stops taking their medication.

Drug dependency is a potential risk factor  for drugs that usually result in rebound headaches.

Some withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • retlessness,
  • nausea,
  • nervousness,
  • vomiting,
  • constipatio
  • or insomnia can ne experienced.

These symptoms commonly last from two to ten days, but can persist for several weeks.

A doctor may be able to prescribe various treatments to help reduce the headache and any of the side affects associated with the drug withdrawal.

This treatment is commonly known as bridge or transitional therapy. Treatments may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids or dihydroergotamine which is an ergot often given intravenously.

Hospitalization is also a way to go about the treatment. 

6 Prevention

It is very crucial to take medication as prescribed to prevent any rebound headaches.

One must always make sure they contact their doctor if they need to take headache medication more than twice a week Avoiding medications that contain amounts of the compound butalbital or opiods.

One must remember to use over-the-counter medications for only fifteen days every month.

One must also limit the use of triptans or combination analgesics to not more than nine days per month.

Avoiding headache triggers that might have caused symptoms in the past. It is advisable to keep a headache diary for individuals who may not be sure what triggers their headaches. Headache diaries can help one notice a pattern which can help them deduce what the triggers might be.

Sleep should be respected. It is important to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday including weekends.

Skipping meals must be avoided. Eating lunch and dinner  about the same time everyday is advised as well.

Drinking enough water, participating in physical exercise can help the body flush out some chemicals that can block pain signals to the brain. Exercises like swimming, walking or cycling cam highly help prevent the headaches.

One must do so as safely as possible and try to avoid any injuries.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Complementary and alternative remedies can offer relief from rebound headache pain for many individuals who experience them.

However, not all these treatments have been studied as headache treatments, and others require to be further researched on.

Acupuncture is ancient technique that uses tiny needles to promote the release of natural painkillers and other chemicals in the central nervous system. There is enough proof that it can help control headaches and other conditions that cause chronic pain.


Biofeedback teaches one how to control particular body responses that help reduce pain. During a session, devices that monitor and give feedback on body functions, such as muscle tension, heart rate and blood pressure are connected to an individual. An individual then learns how to reduce muscle tension and slow their heart rate and breathing to help them relax, which may help one cope with pain.

Herbs, vitamins and minerals. Some dietary supplements including magnesium, feverfew and butterbur seem to help prevent or treat some types of headaches, but there's little scientific support for these claims.

If one is considering the use of supplements, it is vital to first check with a doctor. Some supplements may interfere with other drugs you take or have other harmful effects.  

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with rebound headaches.

Any individual may find it helpful to talk to other people who've been through the same experience they’re having.

Asking a doctor if there are support groups in your area is a step towards the right direction.

9 Risks and Complications

There are a good number of risk factors for rebound headaches, these include:

  • The occurrence of problematic headaches in one’s past.
  • A history of migraines, tension-type headaches or other chronic headaches puts one at risk.
  • Frequent use of headache medications.

Risks of rebound headaches increases if one uses combination analgesics, ergotamine or triptans 10 or more days a month or simple analgesics more than 15 days a month — especially if this regular use continues for three or more months.

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