The Rebound Headache


The rebound headache or medication overuse headache is a recent addition to the headache classification family. A paper was written in 1984 that outlined this phenomena. This complaint is seen in doctors’ offices with increasing frequency. The rebound headache is a common result of prolonged use of over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic medication. These OTC medications can not only increase the frequency of your headaches, but make the intensity worse if the medications are not taken correctly.


What Medications Contribute to Rebound Headache?


There is a group of analgesics that contribute to the rebound headache. These headaches are brought on by ignoring the label instructions for use of the OTC medication, taking far beyond the recommended dose per day or for many days in a row, or not complying with your physician’s orders for use of the medication. Typical medications include the following:
  • Ibuprofen Products

  • Aspirin

  • Acetaminophen

  • Medications Containing Caffeine – Excedrin®

  • Nonsteroidal Pain Medications (NSAIDS)

  • Sinus Relief Medications

  • Codeine and Narcotics

  • Sedatives for Sleep

  • Migraine Headache Remedies – including Imitrex®, Zomig®, Maxalt® or Relpax® to name a few in this group

  • Ergotamine Medications – includes such compounds as Cafergot®, Migergot®
Taking these medications improperly may cause the “rebound phenomena” resulting in another headache.


What Causes A Rebound Headache?


Rebound phenomena to medication is a cycle of events. The medication is first taken for the headache and as the product wears off, more is consumed. As this headache cycle continues, it prompts you to take more and more medications perpetuating the cycle. Chronic headaches result with even more intense pain, frequency and personal limitations for activities of daily living. Quality of life suffers.


Increasing the dose and taking the medication more frequently can cause serious side effects to the digestive system and other organ systems in the body. The higher level of medication is not only harmful but may perpetuate the headaches and this cycle may continue indefinitely.


What’s Happening To Cause Rebound Headaches?


Authors have concluded “higher brain centers” that control pain messages are compromised to some extent in the inability to control pain messages in your nervous system. Problems can arise with the use of increased caffeine consumption from sources other than from your medication. Caffeine from coffee, tea or soft drinks may accelerate the reaction of your caffeine laced medication.


Patients who suffer from migraine type headaches and tension headaches are prime candidates to suffer from the rebound headache phenomena.


What Treatment Can Be Done For Rebound Headaches?


The type of treatment depends upon the severity of the rebound headache cycle. Detoxification under medical supervision may be necessary. The goal is a gradual withdrawal of the offending medication(s). A visit to your primary care provider may be necessary to make that determination.


Alternative treatment for control of your headaches should be investigated. Chiropractic care for headaches has been documented to be effective. Chiropractic is concerned with the biomechanics of the neck as contributing to your headache. Each patient may respond differently to chiropractic care. Taking time to discuss the history and perform an examination that may include diagnostic imaging will be necessary to work out a treatment plan for reasonable expectations of headache management.


The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office have experience in the care and treatment of chronic headaches.


Call today for an appointment. (763) 755-4300


The International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine