Can Headache Medicine CAUSE Headaches?

It’s a safe bet that the most common method of treating headaches in America is with over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, and Motrin. Interestingly enough, survey results from a recent study find that a surprising number of people with chronic headaches may actually be making their problems worse by taking these headache-relieving medications too often.

“Rebound” or “withdrawal” headaches can arise when using these meds too frequently, and have now earned their own classification as Medication Overuse Headaches (MOH).

Among the respondents who qualified for participation in the survey, 44% suffering from “chronic tension-type headaches” overused medications and experienced an MOH. Among respondents suffering from “chronic migraines,” 82% experienced an MOH.

MOHs are often described as having mixed characteristics of a migraine and a tension-type headache, causing pain on both sides of the head (throbbing, squeezing, or pounding sensations). These headaches often come about upon waking in the morning.

It’s quite possible that if you have some degree of headache all day, every day, and suffer from 15 or more headaches per month, you could be suffering with MOHs.

A 2004 article from the journal Lancet Neurology estimated that 5-10% of patients who seek care at specialty headache clinics meet the criteria for an MOH. With the more recent findings above, however, true incidence could be higher. Lancet Neurology also found that women are 3.5 times more likely to have an MOH than men.

I’ve always said that the healthiest people I know don’t have to take any medications, and that the sickest people I know do. Hardly prophetic, but a lot of people in this country ignore the fact that having to depend on medication for any reason is a problem. I’m amazed at how many people use the phrase “normal headache” in conversation.

The cold hard truth is that headaches aren’t normal. They are warning signs from your body, and it’s a way of telling you, “Hey boss, something’s not right. You either did something to me that you shouldn’t have, or something’s going wrong in here and you need to go get help.”

This is yet another example of how important it is to identify the cause of your health problems, and not just treat the effects. Am I suggesting that every health problem in existence can be fixed naturally by a chiropractor? Of course not; that’s foolishness. But the results of this study demonstrate that medicinal remedies are not always the smartest way to go about treating your headaches; even the best of intentions can be completely wrong for your system.