Caffeine and Migraines – Does it help or hurt?

Feb 25th, 2010 | By Beth | Category: The Day to Day, Whats on My Mind

Migraines Coffee and Caffeine

Not Starbucks but Close!

Now, we all know that caffeine is a popular ingredient in prescription and OTC migraine medications; however, I started to wonder if caffeine had a downside for a migraine sufferer like me.

According to, caffeine makes some medications more effective because it increases the body’s ability to absorb the medicine more quickly, which one would presume would result in faster relief and in some cases turn a really scary powerful migraine into something more like a dull roar of pain. I have heard fellow migraine sufferers claim they experience reduced pain when taking their medications with caffeine-laden drinks like tea or coffee, and some prefer carbonated sodas because of the accompanying nausea relief as well.

My concern is whether caffeine withdrawal may be causing rebound headaches, however. My research on caffeine withdrawal indicate these symptoms primarily from this website:

  • • headache
  • • nausea
  • • feelings of anxiety
  • • feelings of depression
  • • fatigue, sleepiness
  • • irritability
  • • even flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and stiffness, hot/cold spells, and more

According to this website, caffeine withdrawal is well-characterized and can cause significant distress or impairment in adults (and even kids). Severe to mild symptoms have been shown to occur after a period of abstinence from a regular caffeine dose as low as 100 milligrams a day, which is the equivalent of one 6-ounce cup of brewed coffee.

So, if I’m regularly drinking a relatively low amount of black tea each day – one cup at breakfast and one cup in the afternoon, and I miss that on the weekends, am I in caffeine withdrawal and could that be causing some of my rebound headaches? If caffeine is in the OTC medications I take, should I switch off of caffeine so that those medicines will work more quickly simply because I don’t regularly have caffeine?

Yikes, I wonder.

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