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
  • AK

    If caffeine were introduced today, it would be an illegal substance. It’s very addicting and used as a pesticide (because it is).

  • Emmote

    I guess I’m one of the rare people who can’t drink coffee or tea or any other caffeinated drink because one mouthful and within 10 minutes I get a really bad headache that can last for hours.

  • CorruptTempest

    Hi!
    I had finally quit soda cold turkey for about three weeks. I was so proud of myself and shocked that it was so easy and felt freaking fantastic drinking water at first. For the first week I had a ‘wellness high’ as some health nuts call it. But soon the extra perks subsided. Water did not feel fantastic anymore and became a norm like the pop was. And mind you I drank like four cans of Mountain Dew daily for sixteen years.
    Well I also hit a depression spike, and Thanksgiving shopping rage was wearing me out, (I was a grocery cashier). I was scheduled eight days in a row with no day off selling enormous amounts of food to irritated and stressed customers and I was tired. I said screw it and treat myself to buying a pack keep me perky. Besides they were on sale. And I tell you what, I have never felt this overall terrible in a long time. Tremendous headaches and lethargy. Soreness all over my body and a general feeling of bloated laziness, irritability, and sluggishness. The back of my eyes feel like an animal is chewing on them. When I was an addict for the liquid candy I didn’t feel like that, however now one can makes me feel a couple decades older. And that made me realize just how bad the stuff is for me. I guess I never noticed the pain and tiredness soda gave me till I had a break from it and drank water. The pop hangover was just a norm for years to me. Any one else experience that? Take a break and then have a sip a while later for a holiday or dinner out and feel miserable?

  • Simply Jeannie

    I find this article interesting, although some may not also know that Cafeene can have a opposite effect on some folks, like me.. where it actually makes one tired.. I have heard that it does the opposite effects of perking people up who are naturally pretty “Hyper”. Although I used to drink the Joe 6oz every day, I began to get “caffene” headaches and switched to De Caf.. I dont know if I am becoming more sensitive to Cafeene now or what but boy did it at times make my migraines seem like mild headaches.

  • Draqonelle Liz

    Or if you like cold drink drink seltzer. The four liters a day your tongue is probably burned. But take those vitamins and water. Indulge in some good carbs like potatoes cauliflower rice and whole grain bread. Carb backload or have a cheat day. But only for a few days. Pop has so many bad carbs and sugar you will probably need something to smooth over your transition. You don’t need to go through two withdrawals at once.
    What is worse a whole grain or cauliflower pizza or dying of cancer (PS you can probably eat a lot more cauliflower pizza if you are a stress eater.)

  • Shane Bennett

    Hi Ted, we humans should help each other for free…. why anyone should have to purchase a book is just dumb, so you should be a nice person and just send her a pdf copy of the book for free

  • Mario chavez

    Same here. But what I did was buy the little cans just to tale the craving away. I’ve been drinking soda since I can remember. The first time I was able to quite but then I was unable employed so I started drinking it again. And the 2nd time I’ve tired to stop and now I see why they say it’s harder to quite a addiction the second time. It’s harder then the first time.

  • Maggz Web

    If I am caffeine free, I get similar plus heart pounding also feel wired and then exhausted, quickly.

  • James Matthew De Palma

    To Say soda is bound to cause cancer is very ignorant of you.

  • Joey George

    Do some research on soda intake and aspartame, then you will know who is ignorant.

  • Benni

    you suggested painkillers, but most contain caffeine!!!!! I cant believe this. lol

  • Ted

    Most pain killers do not contain caffeine. Tylenol, ibuprofen, Alieve and aspirin are all caffeine free unless you buy versions with caffeine added.

  • Lynn Erb

    What about caffeine free products? Are they truely caffeine free? I plan to kick my caffeine addiction starting tomorrow (or after reading your book) …either way soon. I have a 12 year old and while I plan to have her cut back she is 12 and loves tea and other drinks that contain caffeine. I limit pop but from time to time allow her one. Will it be ok for her to drink caffeine free sodas or decaf tea?

  • Tasha

    Only diet soda contains aspartame. so you would need to say “diet soda is bound to cause cancer”. There is no PROVEN scientific fact that soda alone causes cancer.

  • Sarah

    Excedrin does contain caffeine

  • Ted

    No one was saying it didn’t. Kayla said that most pain killers contain caffeine which isn’t true. The two she listed do not. There are actually only a few that do and yes, Excedrin is one of them.

  • Benni

    How ridiculous to recommend a pain killer containing caffeine! We’re trying to get that poison OUT of our systems…. lol. That’s like saying.. oh you quit alcohol and you’re suffering, here take a swig of whiskey… Facepalm…..

  • Benni

    I know.. so why suggest one that does? Bonkers…

  • Ted

    The painkillers recommended in the article do not contain caffeine.

  • eyeresist

    A substance shouldn’t be illegal just because it causes withdrawal.

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