Treating Pain Blog

Pain Management

Headaches caused by pain medication overuse

For most of us, an occasional headache is a fact of life, however, there are headaches caused by pain medication overuse. Whether triggered by stress, allergies or illness, headaches affect 45 million Americans every year. For most headache sufferers, over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are effective at knocking down the pain.

But when these medications (and prescription medications) do not successfully resolve the pain, patients sometimes resort to taking more tablets. That can begin a vicious cycle: every time the pain returns, the dosage gets higher. This cycle may ultimately cause the pain medication to lose its effectiveness and actually cause headaches. On top of that, overuse of these medications can impact your liver and kidneys. It is a progression that must be addressed.

Overuse of both over-the-counter and prescription medications can actually start causing headaches, a process that is sometimes referred to as rebound headaches, or medication overuse headaches. Research shows that people who use pain relief medications more than two or three times a week or more than 10 days out of the month may be at risk of developing these headaches.

Withdrawal from medication overuse headaches can be difficult. First, it is important that the underlying cause of the headache pain is addressed. For some patients, minimally invasive treatments such as occipital nerve blocks, cervical medial branch blocks, radiofrequency neurotomy, or botulinum toxin injections can deaden the nerves and relax the muscles that may be the source of the pain. By directly treating the cause of the pain, the medication won’t be needed and the risk of rebound headaches are reduced. Other therapies, including biofeedback, counseling and physical therapy can also help reduce the need for medication.

Treatment Solutions offered at our Pain Centers

Please contact us if you or someone you know is not getting relief from their headache medications. We can offer options for safe, effective relief. Click on the following link to request an appointment today with one of our expert physicians in your area!

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