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New Study Reveals Painkillers Cause Headaches


As I sat down to write this—no lie!—I actually got a headache. Well, I get them all the time, as mine can be related to weather, pollen production, allergies, not drinking enough water, stress, Mercury in retrograde, or who knows what. It’s neither comforting nor enlightening to know that as a multiple-type of headache sufferer, I am not alone!

With close to 14 million people experiencing headaches on a daily or almost daily basis, it is no wonder that products like Advil and Tylenol are flying off the shelves.  We are used to the idea that when you feel pain, we should pop a pill. Big Pharma has us conditioned to do this, and we are complicit. But just because that’s become the normalized response to pain in our society doesn’t mean that it’s the best response to pain.

Pain Killers Cause Headaches

A recent study out of the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) gave the public some shocking news: the pill that you are taking to cure what ails you may be exactly what is causing the problem in the first place.  Professor Martin Underwood, a lead panelist for NICE from Warwick Medical School, said that taking painkillers to reduce headaches can turn into what he calls a vicious cycle. You get a headache and take something for it. It gets worse, you take more painkillers, and in fact, your headache gets worse, not better. He and his colleagues concluded that the solution was simple and such an easy thing to prevent.

There is what the panel called a “tipping point” to how many medications you can take before they start to cause more pain than relief.  Consultant neurologist Manjit Matharu from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery says that there is a “tipping point” of ten to fifteen days of using pain relief medications each month.  Go beyond that, and then the painkiller becomes the issue.  He says that using aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen), and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs, such as Advil) drugs fifteen or more days per month can result in more pain, and opioids, triptans, ergots or any combination analgesic medications taken more than ten days a month can cause an increase in pain.

This is a huge problem, according to Matharu.  He surmises that one in fifty people overuse medication to treat headaches. That adds up to about a million people with daily headaches because of the overuse of painkillers. This is in addition to the exposure to liver and kidney damage that acetaminophen can cause.

Tension-Headache Sufferers At A Greater Risk

The study suggests that people who have a family history of tension-type headaches or tension migraines may be genetically more vulnerable to overusing medication for headaches.  There is evidence that such individuals may be more prone to taking painkillers even when they don’t have a headache or any pain at all.

Apart from tension headaches, which is characterized as the “every day” type of headache that most people experience, there are other types of headaches such as:

Migraines: These are defined as severe headaches that can last for several hours to several days.  Activity, light, and sound can further aggravate the condition. Some migraine sufferers experience nausea and even vomit, while others (like yours truly) lose peripheral vision in one or both eyes.

Cluster Headaches: These types of headaches will cause an individual to suffer from severe pain around the sides of the face and the eyes.  Oftentimes they are accompanied by swelling and red, watery eyes.

Tension Headaches: Felt usually at the temples, one in four Americans suffers tension headaches, which correlates to how many deal with stress on a daily basis.

Sinus Headaches: Anyone with severe allergies, sinusitis, or allergic rhinitis or who is sensitive to changes in barometric pressure knows how painful and even debilitating these headaches can be. Pain and swelling around the eye sockets is sometimes so severe that simply lifting one’s head can bring tears to our eyes.

Medication Overuse: These headaches, as mentioned in the article, are hard to define from tension headaches as they symptomatically are similar, though the cause is different.

Sufferers Advised To Stop Pharmaceutical Pain Relief

Medical staff in both Wales and England will now be advising their patients to stop taking any kind of pain relief as a result of their headaches, but they know that this will be no easy task.  It is estimated that it may take a month or so of patients suffering in “agony” from the pain caused by the headaches.  Once the withdrawal effects have worn off, however, symptoms should begin to fade.

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You Don’t Need To Suffer Needlessly

The one thing that the study condones as pain relief is acupuncture, a natural form of relieving any headache symptoms.  Acupuncture is reported to have a positive effect on those who suffer from either tension headaches or migraines.  A 2003 study that was published in the Issue of Medical Acupuncture found that acupuncture could either reduce or completely resolve both the frequency and severity of cluster headaches, and resulted in a decrease or discontinuation of medical use.

Another 2002 study that was published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine revealed that acupuncture was able to reduce or resolve the headaches that 98 percent of the fifty participants typically suffered from.

Other Natural Remedies

Apart from acupuncture and acupressure, there are a number of other remedies that can be used to reduce or eliminate headaches without the use of any pharmaceutical medications.  The first solution that people need to be looking at is your diet, which includes your water intake.  Sometimes curing a headache can be as simple as ensuring that you keep your body sufficiently hydrated, which means drinking anywhere from six to twelve glasses of water a day, depending on your body type and your level of activity.

Eating a diet that’s free from refined sugars and preservatives will also go a long way in helping to prevent headaches.  Avoid saturated fats and trans fats, and reduce your sodium intake (this can cause dehydration).  In as little as three days most people who switch to a whole-food diet that places the focus on eating vegetables, fruits, and grains notice a reduction in their pain symptoms.

TIP:  Some of the best foods that are known to get rid of headaches include foods that are high in magnesium, such as beans, nuts, spinach, and broccoli.  When enjoying your water or tea, try adding a shot of lemon juice to increase its headache-fighting abilities.


Aromatherapy has long been used to treat a number of pain conditions, particularly headaches.  Lavender and peppermint have both shown to be effective for the majority of those using aromatherapy.  Lavender is useful for relaxation, while peppermint can help soothe your nerves while also giving you a boost of energy.  Try massaging peppermint directly on your temples or on your scalp to cure severe headaches. You can, of course, eat both lavender and peppermint. Cooking with either or both will wake up your food and taste buds and may calm your nerves.

Get Away From Technology

For one, most technological devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and televisions produce a bright glare that can cause a headache.  Another reason why technological devices may be the cause of your headaches is due to the radiation that they emit.  Turn off the Wi-Fi in your home and hardwire your devices.  If you can’t get away from using wireless, try turning off the router when you aren’t using it. Also, whether you need glasses for reading or not, wearing something between technology and you is highly advisable. Using an anti-glare coating can’t hurt, either.

Get Outside

While escaping technology, why not do so in the great outdoors?  Going for a thirty-minute walk outside is all you may need to reconnect with nature, stimulate your blood flow, and cure that headache.  Many times the sounds and activities that are happening outside can act as a great distraction from the pain, too.  If you live on a farm, go play with your goats or take a hike with your dogs. These are activities I do when I get a headache and all I want to do is scream!

Apply Heat

For those who commonly suffer from tension headaches, simply applying heat to the back of your neck may be the relief that you need.  Stress often will constrict our muscles and, as a result, our blood flow, which causes your headache.  Heat can soothe those muscles to get blood flowing again.  Within minutes of applying a heating pad, hot water bottle, or taking a hot shower, you should start feeling your headache symptoms subside.


Yes, I did say sex! You may recall an article I wrote in July about the health benefits of a healthy sex life. In it, I provide irrefutable proof that sex can cure a headache, even a nasty migraine! Like shampoo, rinse and repeat as necessary.

Tiger Balm

The Chinese have been using various forms of this elixir for about 1,500 years. The modern-day formula was developed by in the 1870s by an herbalist who lived in Burma and who was from China. His name was Aw Chu Kin. The original formulation contained something known as tiger bone, which is an herb (and not at all related to the bones of tigers, I promise). Although the entire formula is a closely guarded secret, all the ingredients are found in nature, and the main ingredients consist of the following:

  • Menthol
  • Camphor
  • Dementholized mint oil
  • Cajuput oil
  • Clove bud oil
  • Cassia oil

One version, known as Tiger Balm White HR (which is the one I use), substitutes cajuput oil with eucalyptus oil.

At the onset of your headache, whether it is a tension, migraine, sinus or cluster, rub a small dab into the area that hurts. If it is a migraine, I rub it into my temples and my scalp. In about twenty minutes, I am a headache-free person.

A lot of solutions to our common every day ailments lie right in making healthy lifestyle choices.  Start up a journal of your daily activities and diet.  Chances are you will start to be able to pinpoint several areas of your life that you can change or eliminate that will help you get rid of your headaches naturally and without the need to add to Big Pharma’s already fat profits.

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