Rebound Headache

What is Rebound Headache?

Rebound Headaches occur when medication for headache pain is taken incorrectly or on a long-term basis. They are also called medication overuse headaches. They can happen when pain relievers are taken for conditions other than head pain, but rebound headaches only occur if headaches are already a problem.

Contrary to popular belief, they can happen with over-the-counter pain relievers as well as controlled substances. It can become a vicious cycle of pain and pain relief medications. Caffeine can make it worse, especially when consumed in large doses.

What are the Symptoms of a Rebound Headache?

The symptoms of rebound headaches vary according to the type of pain reliever(s) used and the type of headache being treated. Symptoms may include:

  • Headache upon waking
  • Queasiness
  • Lethargy
  • Concentration problems
  • Memory difficulties
  • Moodiness

Keep in mind that two or more headaches a week are a reason for concern. Recurring headaches could be a sign of a serious condition, and a healthcare provider should be consulted for a medical evaluation.

How is a Rebound Headache Treated?

Rebound headaches go away when pain medications are discontinued. However, continuing treatment may be required and may include:

  • Reduction of dosage
  • Alternate methods of headache management including NSAIDs or other medications
  • A drug rehab program may be necessary to treat narcotic pain medication addiction
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Alternative therapies such as meditation or acupuncture
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Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 22, 2017