When a headache strikes, most of us head for the medicine cabinet or local pharmacy and take an over-the-counter pain pill, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or pain-relieving drugs with caffeine. But when you don’t follow the instructions on the bottle or from your doctor, these medicines could give you a rebound headache.
When the pain reliever wears off, your body may have a withdrawal reaction, prompting you to take more medicine, which only leads to another headache. And so the cycle continues until you start to have daily headaches with more severe pain more often.
This rebound syndrome is especially common if your medication has caffeine, which is often included in many pain relievers to speed up the action of the other ingredients. Though it can be helpful, caffeine in medications, along with the other sources you get (coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate), makes you more likely to have a rebound headache.
Overuse of pain relievers also can lead to addiction, more intense pain when the medication wears off, and other serious side effects.