Coping, Treatment

Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches

Caffeine can be a wonderful headache and migraine abortive. Use it too much and the withdrawal headache can be an unspeakable hell. Good thing I was in need of a post topic for today when the caffeine headache fairy visited me last night.

As with all of my abortives, I use caffeine no more than twice a week. Less than once a month I indulge when I need energy or really want coffee and the only decaf available is chemically processed. I stretch these rules when I’m traveling or have something big going on. Like when my niece was here last week.

I’ve been testing my caffeine boundaries in the last couple months anyway. I noticed in May that it didn’t seem to be working as well as it used to (and neither was Advil, my other abortive of choice). Before I realized I had a headache disorder, I drank caffeine when I felt a headache coming on, thinking that I was staying on top of caffeine withdrawal. Hart maintains — and I’ve come to agree — that the caffeine aborted migraines, not treated caffeine withdrawal headaches.

So I haven’t been as strict with my rules in the last couple months. Then when my niece was here, I was even more lax with my caffeine intake. After she left, the old guidelines didn’t kick in. And last night I had a horrendous caffeine withdrawal headache.

I assumed it was a migraine, even though it felt different than migraines that have been plaguing my sleep for the last year. I tried to sleep it off, but felt worse each time I woke up — not characteristic of my migraines at all. At 12:45 this afternoon, I finally acknowledged that I had a caffeine headache and dragged myself out of bed to medicate.

90 minutes later, I’ve finished my cup of tea. It took the edge off, but the dramatic soothing that caffeine brings to a withdrawal headache was absent. Maybe it was a migraine all along. In any case, I have a post written and now I can go back to being like the man who has been hiccuping for 45 years:

15 thoughts on “Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches”

  1. Caffeine withdrawl headaches can be particularly debilitating and really drive you crazy. After seeing many patients undergoing caffeine withdrawl, I have noticed often that these kinds of headaches are a sharp pain (nasty) and many involve the vertex (top of head) or are centered around or behind the eyes. They last from one to ten days on average, but if yours lasts longer then try this trick. Go BACK onto coffee (or tea) straight away to the same level of consumption you had before, and withdraw caffeine sources over a 12 week period – SLOWLY. When you do this, increase water intake by 8 glasses a day – and here’s the trick – take an herbal liver tablet or capsule at the rate of one a day for the first week, one tablet twice daily (with foods, always)for the second week. For the 3rd week, take 3 a day, and step this up week by week til you take a max of 6/day. This may take from 3 – 6 weeks. Then reduce caffeine sources at the rate of about 10 – 20 % a week. After 3 months you should be able to come off ALL caffeine and have NO headaches as a result. The trick is to ease up on junk foods, fried & fatty foods during this period. You can stop caffeine without pain. Go slow and clear the liver. I’ve seen this technique work for most who try it.

  2. Does anyone know how many days caffeine withdrawal migraines can last? I am on my 8th day of migraines since quitting caffeine cold turkey. Any help would be appreciated.

  3. is it… that’s mean we have to drink a coffee everyday to withdrawal our headache… no wonder i seldom got headache because i drink coffee everyday some more 4 times a day….

  4. When I was 33 years old I got the worst headache I’d ever had. Fortunately I was able to connect that headache to my attempt to quit a six mug a day coffee habit. I found I could avoid or induce a headache at will by inducing caffeine withdrawal. Apparently all my headaches, mild, moderate, and severe, which I’d had since childhood, had been caffeine withdrawal headaches.

    Nobody had told me, nowhere had I read, that caffeine can cause headaches. This was around 1993. Later I learned everybody in my family is well aware that if they go too long without their coffee they get a headache, but nobody bothered to enlighten me. I had blamed my headaches on eyestrain, or food poisoning, or I didn’t know what.

    Here’s the thing: my severe headaches qualify as migraines. They are severe, debilitating, and accompanied by nausea/vomiting. So, are they migraines or caffeine withdrawal headaches?

    They are both.

    The prevailing view is that migraine and caffeine withdrawal headache are two distinct and separate diseases. I think the prevailing view is mistaken; I think migraine is sometimes or always caffeine withdrawal.

  5. well for my opinion, it depend on individual. some of us our body can’t get use to it. for me its ok… because i like to drink coffee & soda (coke) also…

  6. Just wanted to share my experience. I started having a one-sided headache (without dizzyness or other migraine symptoms…so not exactly migraine) and it peaked at about 3-4 days since last coffee and went down from there. Its the 10th day and is almost gone (I am still drinking 1 or 2 decafs a day). Previously I was doing 4-5 cappuccinos and a whole lot of soda!

  7. Wow, I thought I was suffering from migraines this week when I awoke with a terrible headache the past 3 days. I could barely function at work. The pain was behind my right eye, right temple and part of the top of my head. I tried aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. Nothing helped. It was then that I realized that I had run out of coffee three days ago. I hadn’t had any coffee for the same three days. I found a small pack of instant coffee and drank some. My headache is going away. I never would have thought that I have coffee dependence. I was really getting worried since sleep, rest, and medication did not help.

  8. I have had caffeine withdraw headaches for years. I even cut back to decaf (which still has about 3-12 mg of caffeine (~5% of regular) but it didn’t help: if I have 2 cups of that then none the next day then the evening of the next (third) day the migrane starts, even if I had caffeine on that day. The migrane lasts 3 days, just like Peggy’s: right temple and radiates down.
    Nothing I take seems to help, even Excedrin Migrane or taking in caffeine (they take the edge off for about 4 hrs so I can function, but regardless the migrane stays until 3 days then stops on it’s own).
    As much as I say I want to go cold-turkey, I, like the other Julie, just like the taste and smell. Plus I love dark chocolate, which for example 1.5 ounces of Hershey’s Special Dark has ~30mg of caffeine!
    Flooding myself with fluids doesn’t help either, nor sleeping it off. Any other suggestions would be wonderful.

  9. I am having severe headaches like no others I have ever experienced. For some odd reason, coffee was making me nauseated every morning after I drank it, or my Nexium was doing it. At any rate, I quit drinking my usual two huge mugs every morning. The headache begins sharply on the top of the right side of my head, goes down my right eye and into my right upper jaw. It has been one week since I stopped drinking coffee. I did substitute a cup of black tea for awhile. It didn’t upset my stomach. I want to know more about coffee withdrawal. How long is this going to continue? I even wake up in the middle of the night with it and have to take Ibuprophen.

  10. I abstain from diuryhetics, such as coffee and tea, because it causes frequent restroom visits. The only problem is I’ve developed withdraw headaches towards the end of the day. I usually take a couple aspirin and this helps a little. By the morning the headache is gone, but still it’s a problem. What should I do?

  11. I went from taking 3 to 5 cups every day down to 1 cup of tea or coffee. Although I had a fluctuating headache for 3 days, I feel the same now, and have even lost the taste for coffee. I particularly think the high amount of coffee was worsening my sleep, leading to a vicious cycle. Your blog entry motivated me to write one also:–6866
    Thank you.

    And thanks for the post you wrote. The information is excellent.


  12. Yes, Kerrie, sometimes I am too nauseous to drink coffee. It is much harsher on my stomach than tea is. In that case, I use 1 Excedrin tablet and take my zofran.

    I usually drink green tea, but have wondered if caffeinated water might do the trick. We have a friend who chugs a Coke when his aura hits . That sounds horrendous to me and my nausea usually isn’t too bad!

    Take care,

  13. Hi Kerrie, I also use caffeine as an abortive but in a slightly different way. I drink black tea on a daily basis (British style with milk and a little sugar), just two cups a day. When I have to medicate a breakthru migraine, I drink coffee. Because I don’t have it very often, the coffee increases the effectiveness of my other abortives (triptans, NSAIDS, opiates, etc.).

    I love the taste of coffee, so I do drink it just for pleasure occasionally, sometimes throwing in some decaf for good measure but luckily, I’ve never gotten hooked on the bean!

    I’m glad coffee is helpful for you. Do you ever feel too nauseated to drink the coffee?

    I blame Seattle for my addiction, but I was carrying a mug of coffee with me to my high school classes way before coffee was cool!

    Take care,

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