What is the Connection Between Caffeine and Migraines?

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  • Written By: Lindsey Rivas
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2018
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The connection between caffeine and migraines is twofold. Caffeine can either be beneficial in treating migraines, or it can trigger more headaches. It depends on how much and how often a person ingests caffeine as to whether the relationship between caffeine and migraines is positive or negative. Caffeine can help migraines by increasing the effectiveness of pain relievers and constricting blood vessels, but high doses of it or usage over the long term can cause rebound headaches.

Migraines are vascular headaches resulting from the enlargement of blood vessels. When the blood vessels are enlarged, the nerve fibers around the brain arteries release higher amounts of a chemical call adenosine, which causes inflammation and pain in the head. Adenosine also causes the blood vessels to dilate, extending the duration of a migraine.

Caffeine is often used to increase alertness and energy since it is a stimulant, and it can be found in many sources such as coffee, tea, and soda. Pain medications will commonly contain small amounts of it as well for its beneficial effects. If a person takes too much caffeine, however, it can lead to anxiety, irritability, and sleep disorders. The amount of caffeine the body can tolerate without unfavorable side effects will vary from person to person.


The connection between caffeine and migraines can be positive when low doses of caffeine are used for treating migraines. Caffeine that is included in pain medication can make the medication more effective because it helps the body absorb the pain relievers faster, allowing the migraine sufferer to take less medication. Caffeine also causes the blood vessels to constrict, which reduces the enlargement of vessels that occurs during migraines. In addition, the chemical properties of caffeine allow it to block adenosine receptors in the head, so it is useful for alleviating acute migraines. The pain of migraines might also be reduced by caffeine because it triggers the release of dopamine, which activates the pleasure center of the brain.

On the other hand, caffeine and migraines can have an adverse relationship over the long term, as caffeine can actually trigger headaches. Rebound headaches can occur from taking too much caffeine over time, which can happen when one ingests caffeine from multiple sources. Also, caffeine can be addictive, and the body’s tolerance level for it can increase with prolonged usage. If a person who is used to taking high doses of it suddenly ceases taking it, the person will commonly suffer from withdrawal symptoms, including headaches. The negative correlation between caffeine and migraines can be lessened by limiting the intake of caffeine.



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