Millions of Americans suffer from chronic headaches, and many of them try to achieve relief by taking medications. Depending on the type of chronic headaches, including tension headaches, cluster headaches or migraines, there are several drugs available as potential treatment. Unfortunately, many of these drugs, which are effective at ameliorating symptoms for a short time, can worsen headaches after the drug is eliminated from the body and terminates its action. In certain susceptible individuals, depending on the frequency of drug use for headache relief, the headaches may return and become more intense than the initial headaches, which is known as rebound headaches or medication overuse headaches. As general advice, medical professionals do not recommend using drugs for headache relief more than twice per week. Several studies revealed that individuals who used medications more than ten days per month were more likely to experience medication overuse headaches. However, not all drugs used to treat headaches have the same potential to cause rebound headaches.
At Advanced Health & Physical Medicine in Greenville, NC, many patients who suffer from rebound headaches due to excessive use of medication can find relief through non-invasive, gentle, drug-free treatments, such as neuromuscular re-education, massage therapy or vibrational traction, as well as implementing professional lifestyle and nutrition advice. Drugs are a very intrusive, non-specific and aggressive “tool” for headaches, which may be useful in emergencies, but may cause substantial side effects and rebound headaches when people rely on them too much for headache relief.
It is not completely clear how drugs cause rebound headaches. It may be a combination of a developed tolerance to the drug effects, a decreased sensitivity of receptors in the brain or a more accelerated removal of the drug from the body. Whatever the reason, rebound headaches are a well-documented fact of headache medication treatment. The drugs that are associated with the highest risk of rebound headaches are opiates, such as codeine, which are used alone or in combination with other drugs to ameliorate intense headaches. Although very effective for a short period of time, they are known for causing brutal rebound headaches once their effect is gone. Certain sedatives, such as barbiturates, which are used in combination drugs, also have a very high potential for medication-overuse headaches. Generally, all combined medications may cause rebound headaches, which is perhaps caused by the added risk of their individual components. A frequently used combined pain-relief medication that includes caffeine, aspirin and acetaminophen is responsible for many cases of rebound headaches. Drugs that regulate serotonin levels in the brain, such as triptans and ergots, are used to treat migraine episodes. These drugs have a moderate risk of causing rebound headaches, but in some individuals, they may have a substantial negative impact depending on the individual susceptibility to these drugs. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is frequently used as a painkiller, can cause intense headaches if used more than twice per week. Pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, are significantly less likely to cause rebound headaches, but, when used more than 15 days per month, they too can provoke medication-overuse headaches.
It is difficult to evaluate or predict who may experience rebound headaches after using a headache-relief drug with a certain frequency. Every individual responds in a different way, depending on the type of headache, drug metabolism and removal, duration of medication use and other factors. Generally, rebound headaches caused by migraine-specific drugs, such as triptans or ergots, are easier to treat through a gradual reduction of drug use. Rebound headaches caused by codeine, combined medications that contains acetaminophen or sedatives are more brutal and more difficult to treat. Advanced Health & Physical Medicine medical specialists recommend using drugs for headaches only when absolutely necessary in case of severe pain or emergency. They are ready to help headache sufferers with more safe and natural treatments that address the root of the problem, which is improper spinal mechanics, neck muscle tension or compression on the spinal nerves in the neck region. Attempting to treat migraines and tension headaches with drugs is an aggressive approach because it does not change the abnormalities that caused the bothersome symptoms in the first place. Tension headaches and migraines are mostly caused by tight neck muscles through pressure exerted on the skull, vertebral displacements and misalignments, or disc herniation, which is why non-invasive therapies should be tried before any drug intervention.
Treating the abnormalities that cause chronic headaches requires experience, solid medical knowledge and hard work from our medical team chiropractors at Advanced Health & Physical Medicine, but also sustained effort and patience from headache sufferers. However, this is the only approach that provides permanent relief for chronic headaches because it induces natural adjustments that eliminate the root of the abnormality in the neck region. Advanced Health & Physical Medicine chiropractors treat headaches through spinal adjustments to correct the normal spine curves and treat vertebral displacements. Massage therapy, vibrational traction and neuromuscular re-education are also applied, which train the muscles of the body to offer proper support to the spine and the neck. Improving spinal and neck mechanics and strengthening the neck muscles provides gradual yet risk-free relief to chronic headaches sufferers who have been taking medications as their last hope to eliminate life-altering headaches. Don’t hesitate to contact Advanced Health & Physical Medicine and discover an alternative approach to treating headaches through gentle therapies that offer a safe, natural cure.