Anatomy of a Caffeine Headache: Causes, Remedies, Prevention

A caffeine headache has been experienced by just about anyone who consumes caffeine on a regular basis.

headache causes

This caffeine-induced headache usually starts behind the eyes and then works its way up the front of the forehead as it further develops, becoming quite debilitating.

For some, this can trigger a migraine, but for most people a caffeine headache is moderately painful and varies in severity depending on the cause.

Top 5 Causes of a Caffeine Headache

  1. Caffeine withdrawal
  2. Varied caffeine consumption
  3. Caffeine overdose
  4. Caffeine sensitivity
  5. Caffeine allergy

How to Remedy an Aching Head

The number one cause of a caffeine headache is caffeine withdrawal.

Even a small decline (30-100mg) in the amount of caffeine a person usually consumes can result in a mild headache.

People who miss their daily dose, consume less than their average, or who are detoxing from caffeine will most likely experience this type of headache.

For those trying to cut caffeine altogether cold turkey, the withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating. That’s why for advanced level detoxes from caffeine, we recommend a cheap and effective caffeine detox program like Wean Caffeine.wean caffeine

As many of you have experienced, you don’t need to be an addict to experience the negative effects of caffeine

People who consume caffeine in a hit or miss fashion tend to have more caffeine-induced headaches than those that have the same amount every day.

Also, for those that consume too much caffeine in a short amount of time often experience a headache as a common caffeine overdose symptom.

Finally, those who are ultra-sensitive to the caffeine molecule or who have an “allergic-like” reaction to the substance, can also experience a headache. However, this type of caffeine headache the least common.

caffeine-headache

 

If you aren’t intentionally quitting caffeine, the best remedy for a caffeine withdrawal headache is to consume more caffeine.

As soon as a person begins to feel a tightness behind the eyes, he/she should evaluate their recent caffeine consumption and then consume an adequate amount of caffeine to stop the withdrawal.

Pain relievers such as Excedrin also include caffeine and can remedy the caffeine withdrawal headache faster since they also have added pain relievers.

For those that are purposely detoxing from caffeine or for those that have consumed too much caffeine, we recommend the following.

Most of the time a caffeine headache will peak in severity and then gradually get better as the body adjusts to having no caffeine.

I find that most of the time pain killers dull the pain and a good night sleep takes care of the rest.

Note: For those that had a moderate to severe addiction to caffeine, the headache could last for several days, but is usually worse the first 24 hour period without caffeine.

how to avoid a caffeine headache

The Two Best Methods for Prevention

For those that want to prevent a caffeine headache, there are basically two ways to keep a caffeine headache from developing.

  1. Consume about the same amount of caffeine every day. – Don’t vary consumption by any more than about 50mg each and every day, even on the weekends.
  2. Consume zero to very little caffeine– Eliminate caffeine from the diet completely. Usually, people who have very small amounts, such as what’s in a serving of dark chocolate, won’t experience any problems with developing a caffeine-induced headache.

By understanding how a caffeine headache develops, how to remedy it, and how to prevent it; this type of headache doesn’t have to be an issue for most people.

Being aware of the caffeine content of your favorite products as well as being mindful of how much you have consumed are your best defenses against getting caffeine-induced headaches.

Helpful Tools

1. Our caffeine content database can help people keep track of their caffeine consumption and be aware of how much caffeine they are consuming daily by drinking their favorite beverages.

2. Download a caffeine-tracking app. This smartphone application allows users to easily track their daily caffeine consumption.

3. Our Guide to Quitting Caffeine provides a step-by-step plan to quit or cut back on caffeine without all the painful withdrawal symptoms such as headaches.

Get Help Quitting Caffeine

Reduce your caffeine intake without pain and discomfort.

See our new 10-step plan
  • Lauren k

    At that point you don’t want vasodilator though as the lack of caffeine is already dialating everything too much; you want the opposite to mimic the vasoconstrictor of the caffeine. And it is for during the day, when the last thing you want is to fall asleep! The ice frlt fantastic and the caffeine withdrawl headache when clean away after it. I do not think heat would have done this and my body instinctually wanted ice. Ice and heat work opposite ways but can be compatible depending. But you definitely wouldn’t use heat for n immediate injury; you use ice. So in some situations they work completely opposite (one exception being when hot/cold therapy is used for an ache).

  • thelru

    Ibruprophen is much better.

  • mecstatic

    OMG a detox guide !!@-@ yes

  • MoyJoy

    Exact same for me!!! Except it’s my right eye! So crazy!

  • Ava

    Excedrin has caffeine

  • Tiffanie Few

    I’m not sure if that was a question or statement. But yes I know excedrin has caffeine in it just not a lot each pill has 65 mg so 1 will help slightly take the edge of the pain away! Instead of drinking a energy drink with like 200-300 mg of caffeine it helps gradually reduce the withdrawal!

  • When I quit using coffee cold turkey, my head starts hurting, building up, it gets so painful I could cry. Right now its been about 18 hours off of caffine and I can barely move due to the pain. I was only drinking three cups of drip brew a day. This sucks, but I hope I remeber the pain is not worth the pleasure.

  • Robin Jean

    I feel the same pain. I have thyroid issues and I am really trying to have a clean diet and that includes detoxing from caffeine. This is day two and it’s getting better but I still have a slight headache. Yesterday I thought I was dying. I also hope to remember how this feels when I am tempted to have a cup of coffee in the future. Not worth what it does to your body.

  • Stephanie Carter

    Ok so i decided to stop drinking soda! I have been addicted to soda since about 12. But alot worse since I became an adult. I would drink about 4 of the liter bottles of Pepsi a day. So along with all the caffeine I put on some weight. So it’s been 3 days and I can’t get rid of my headache. It’s so bad. I get nauseous and I’m so tired all day now. If i could sleep until the withdrawls stopped I would. But we all know that’s not possible. So if anyone has any ideas please don’t hesitate to share. I’ve switched to water and powerade. I’ve almost caved and had just a little soda but haven’t uet. Just keep praying for relief of this headache.

  • Shera

    Drink something that has caffeine, but not carbonation. Green tea, coffee, 5 hour energy. Step down slowly instead of cold-turkey. Start with 12 oz if coffee or green tea, then tomorrow go to eight ounces…. Up your water consumption and B vitamin intake as well. That will assist in flushing the toxins and leveling out your blood sugar.

  • 4UandI

    The nausea is the worst part. I am in day 3 cold turkey and still have a headache but I finally took 1 Nexium for the nausea. I don’t take those on a regular basis because I usually don’t need anything that strong and they can create their own set of problems, but when I’m nauseous I can’t do anything! So that with Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Also to sleep I had to break down and take Alka Seltzer PM.This has aspirin in it so there is my bit of cheating as aspirin has a bit of caffeine.
    Ice pack to the forehead and top of head to help with those dilated blood vessels, I’m back on my feet drinking peppermint tea. Ate some white rice earlier so I wouldn’t feel worse from not eating. I’m hoping by swing shift tomorrow I’ll be myself again. I’ll be walking right past the coffee pot in the break room!
    I have to remember that the only reason I had coffee in the house is because it sometimes does relieve a headache that comes from something else. (1) cup of strong black coffee will help with a headache by constricting blood vessels. Many headaches are the result of dilated blood vessels in the head. I never had w/d symptoms from 1 cup of coffee before I began drinking it on a regular basis.
    My trouble always begins at work and then sneaks it’s way to home base!
    Anyway, the things I described above helped me feel better but time to adjust to no caffeine is still in the works. I can’t imagine doing nothing in a situation like this. I would have probably been chewing dry coffee grounds by now!
    How did it go by the way? I see your post is 10 months old!

  • Joey George

    Stop ur soda intake for good. That is bound to cause cancer. Try to get short naps and more sleep to avoid headache.

  • Andrew

    I drink one of those 5 hour energy drinks once a week (mostly for the mega-dose of b12), and haven’t felt any kind of withdrawal symptoms at all. When I stopped cold-turkey after drinking coffee everyday, the withdrawals were horrible.

  • Kayla

    I’m a senior in high school and have a really bad caffeine problem. It’s considered predisposition (or something like that) because my mom has a caffeine addiction that’s worse than mine. I can’t seem to go without a cup of coffee and a can of soda (or multiple, even) or I’d find myself sleeping during class, wobbling and drowsy, and having a huge headache. I can’t stand it but at the same time i dont wanna give up soda or anything. I dont know what to do.

  • Kayla

    Drink a lot of water and take naps whenever possible. Start lowering your caffeine intake, a little more every few days, maybe? And most pain killers have caffeine (acetaminophen, ibuprofen etc), so when you get headaches, take one. Its a bitch to kick caffeine addiction, i’ve yet to do it. But i have faith in you. Pepsi is my weakness

  • Ted

    Good advice, but most pain killers do not contain caffeine.

  • Victoria Gonzalez

    I tried to stop drinking soda but I’m having such a hard time. After the first 24hrs. I had the worst migraine I was extremely tired and I was vomiting profusely. I caved in and within 10 minutes I was completely fine as if nothing happened. I really need to stop drinking soda’s for health reasons….. Help!!

  • Ted

    Hi Victoria, That sounds awful. Have you checked out our book? We wrote it for people exactly like you! https://book.caffeineinformer.com/

  • Kevin Landavazo

    Caffeine consumption doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Just consume it through black unsweetened coffee. The sugar and everything doesn’t have to be part of it. They also have straight caffeine pills at your local pharmacy so there you go.

  • Kevin Landavazo

    Caffeine consumption doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Just consume it through black unsweetened coffee. The sugar and everything doesn’t have to be part of it. They also have straight caffeine pills at your local pharmacy so there you gooo

Last Modified: November 10, 2017

References

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  • Smith, R. (1987). Caffeine withdrawal headache. Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics, 12(1), 53-57. link
  • Kendler, K. S., & Prescott, C. A. (2014). Caffeine intake, tolerance, and withdrawal in women: a population-based twin study. link
  • Shapiro, R. E. (2008). Caffeine and headaches. Current pain and headache reports, 12(4), 311-315. link