Rebound Headaches - WatsonsHealth


Rebound headaches are caused by long-time use of drugs to treat headaches such as migraine. Pain relievers offer relief for occasional headaches. But in the event that you take them for more than a couple of days per week, they are going to trigger rebound headaches.

It appears that any medicine taken for pain relief can cause rebound headaches, however provided that you already have a headache disorder. Pain relievers taken for an additional condition like arthritis, have not been shown to cause rebound headaches in people who did not have a headache disorder.

Rebound headaches often discontinue when you discontinue taking the pain medicine. It’s hard within a short time period, however your doctor can help treat your rebound headaches for long-term.

Types and symptoms of rebound headaches may differ according to the type of original headache being treated and the medication used. Rebound headaches tend to:

  • Present every day or almost every day, frequently waking you in the early morning
  • Improve with pain relief drugs but then come back as your medication wears off

Other signs and symptoms are listed below:

  • Nausea
  • Listlessness
  • Restlessness and difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability


The diagnosis of rebound headache often is centered on a history of long-term headache and frequent use of medicines. Testing almost isn’t always essential.



To break the cycle of rebound headaches, you’ll need to restrict your pain medicine. Relying on the drug you’re taking, your doctor may just propose stopping the treatment right away or step by step lower the dose.

When you discontinue your medicine, anticipate your headaches to worsen before they get better. Drug dependency is also a hazard for drugs that result in rebound headaches, and you could have withdrawal signs such as nervousness, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, insomnia or constipation. These symptoms quite often last from two to 10 days, but they may be able to persist for a couple of weeks.

Your healthcare professional may prescribe more than a few treatments to help alleviate headaches and the effects associated with drug withdrawal. This is often called bridge or transitional therapy, and therapies could include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicinal drugs, corticosteroids or dihydroergotamine, an ergot frequently given through a vein (intravenously).

Preventive medications

After you’ve broken the rebound-headache cycle, continue to work with your doctor to avoid relapsing and to find a safer way to manage your headaches. Your doctor may recommend any of the given every day preventive medications:

  • A tricyclic antidepressant like amitriptyline or nortriptyline
  • An anticonvulsant like topiramate, gabapentin or divalproex
  • A beta blocker such as propranolol
  • A calcium channel blocker, such as verapamil

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you cope with your headaches. In CBT, you also work on healthy lifestyle habits and keeping a headache diary.

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