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Caffeine and Migraines: Is Your Cup of Joe Your Cause of Pain?

According to the National Headache Foundation, about 30 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches annually, and this debilitating condition can typically last anywhere from 4 hours to three days. With symptoms like throbbing, pulsating pain, and sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells and movement, avoiding triggers for the condition is paramount to those that experience it. Caffeine and migraines have long been a subject of study, and it turns out that caffeine may (and may NOT) be as bad as you thought.

How Does Caffeine Affect the Body?

Although caffeine is a naturally occurring substance, the Food and Drug Administration classifies it as a drug because of its stimulating effects on the central nervous system. Most often, caffeine is ingested in coffee, tea, or soft drinks, and is generally used to prevent or relieve drowsiness, and to improve focus or performance. Unfortunately, the effects of caffeine on the brain and body can vary tremendously depending on how it’s used, and while caffeine can have positive effects, it can also lead to issues like migraine headaches.

Caffeine and Migraines

While some people swear that a strong cup of coffee can stop a developing migraine headache in its tracks, there are plenty of reasons to avoid all caffeine altogether if you suffer from the condition.

  • Drinking the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee daily can lead to a developing a tolerance to caffeine and a dependence from which you can actually experience withdrawal symptoms, including headache. According to a 2004 study published in Psychopharmacology, the incidence of headache as a caffeine withdrawal symptom was 50%, and symptoms of withdrawal could last from 2-9 days.
  • Caffeine is largely considered a diuretic, and the resulting dehydration can lead to headaches.
  • Caffeine consumption can disrupt normal sleeping patterns, which the Cleveland Clinic lists as a migraine trigger.

Caffeine for Migraine Relief

Caffeine consumption may not be all bad however. As a migraine headache treatment, caffeine is added to many common medications for migraine relief because it boosts their inception and effectiveness. Also, caffeine itself has some positive effects on headaches:

  • Caffeine can be an effective treatment for tension-type headaches, which can turn into full-blown migraines. Tension headaches are characterized by dilated blood vessels around the skull, and the vaso-constricting effects of the caffeine can minimize or eliminate the problem in some cases.
  • According to a Stanford study, caffeine contains metabolites that can reduce inflammation, a condition that occurs in the vessels around the brain when a migraine is triggered.

Curious About Your Caffeine Consumption?

At Envista Medical, our holistic approach will increase your ability to notice the external factors that cause your migraine episodes, which will help you learn how to react, so you can avoid the onset of a headache or migraine. Contact us today to learn more about our complementary, non-surgical migraine relief options!