One of the most devastating cycles that a person can fall into is the rebound headache cycle. Doctors all over the country realize that many of the popular over-the-counter headache medications, when used too often, can cause rebound headaches, or the pain the return, often at a more severe level, 12, 24 or 48 hours later. It is definitely a twisted and cruel marketing technique that is blasted all over the television, magazines, newspapers and other media praising these medications as a gift from above. When in fact, if a person over-uses these drugs, they can find themselves in a cycle where they have near daily or even daily headaches and cannot determine what is causing the pain. In my opinion theses drugs should have in huge, bold print on their label, about three times as large as the brand name stating “Overuse of this medication can cause serious rebound headaches” so no one would miss it!
How much is overuse? Using the medication daily, twice a day? Quoting the Headache-Advisor.com webpage, “Additionally there is over use of over the counter medications like Tylenol Sinus or Excedrin Migraine. These medications used more than three times a week are a definite cause of recurring headache.” One additional medication that can lead to rebound headaches in particular that is pointed out by this article is Claritin D. Sinus Headache. From my experience plus the substantiation from two different family doctors Goodies powder and B.C. powder do the same.
When a person finds oneself trapped in the rebound headache cycle it becomes nearly impossible to diagnose other headache triggers. Picture the following scenario. A person, not aware that a certain food is a headache trigger, eats this food occasionally. Approximately 24 hours after he/she consumes this delectable item, a headache begins to come on. Not wanting the headache to get too bad a Goodies powder is taken (for the third time this week). The pain subsides for the time being. As another day passes the headache pain begins to rear its ugly head again. So, once again, in order to relieve the pain immediately, another Goodies powder is taken. Although, this time maybe two powders are necessary to provide relief. Maybe the pain is gone for 36-48 hours this time but sure enough, after a day or two it comes back again.
By this point in time, the subject is beginning to question what is causing these headaches, still not aware that the original headache was caused by a food he ate days ago that acted as the headache trigger.
Once a person gets caught in this “rebound headache cycle” it can just keep compounding. While the individual will still be eating various headache triggers from time to time he/she will have a very slim chance of being able to point them out because of the near daily or daily headache of one degree or another that this person has.
Consider if our person in this example then goes to a doctor who tells him two things (and I have gotten this advice from the medical profession before):
First, at the beginning stages of a headache is when the headache medication should be taken. Second, keep a journal to try to figure out what is causing the headaches.
When this advice is observed, our subject finds himself/herself taking headache drugs at the first sign of a headache all right but also at the first sign of anything that appears to be a headache. And then sometimes when there some stress and no headache. These drugs start to get taken far too often. They, themselves bring on the recurring pain and outside sources that may cause headaches also are almost impossible to detect.
This is a very dangerous cycle to become involved in. Your work level and quality will decrease. Your social life (if there is any left) will be deteriorate. Your family time and care for your family will drop. People who get in this cycle bad enough will feel that they have lost control of their lives. I have even known people who have felt that life was not worth living; and you know what that can bring on. To be blunt, many of the headache medications available today are one of the largest causes of daily headaches that there is.
I have had personal experience with three very close friends that experienced continual rebound headaches. For many years neither was aware of many of the headache triggers that they were partaking of regularly. And although both seemed to be somewhat aware of rebound headaches they continually reached for the bottle for headache relief; sometimes 2, 3, 4 or even 5 times per day. Both of these individuals were in such a bad rebound headache cycle that they both had headaches nearly every day for years. The fear of a migraine headache gripped both people so dearly that they would do almost anything to avoid it. The unfortunate part is that even with taking so many of these drugs, they both still got migraines fairly often.
One of these individuals died from cancer but never did get over this addiction to headache medication. She suffered with near daily headaches for the last ten years of her life. The second person, through grit, being careful what he eats or drinks and the use of herbal remedies was able to break the cycle and has obtained a great deal of natural headache relief. My hope is that he can with continue his fortitude and never give in to the common over-the-counter headache medications again.
To break the rebound headache cycle two things are critical. First, one needs to face up to the fact that he needs to fight the causes of daily headaches, not just the symptoms. A person who is taking more than three of the OTC medications listed above (and there are probably others that are just as dangerous too) per week needs to realize that he is very likely caught in the rebound headache syndrome. One has to lay off these drugs. It may mean “toughing out” a headache but the rewards will be well worth it.
The second thing that needs to be done is to start a journal of what is eaten and the headaches one receives. This can do a tremendous amount toward determining headache triggers that need to be eliminated. The biggest headache triggers from my experience are coffee, caffeine, chocolate, sugar, alcohol (red wine especially) and monosodium glutamate.
When a person stops over-using headache medication then it is possible to determine other headache triggers. It is very hard to do so while over-use of these drugs is occurring. It can be done, I have seen it!