Caffeine first became officially recognized as treatment for postdural puncture headaches (headaches as a result of lumbar injury) in the 1940s. More recently, caffeine has been recommended as a primary medicine in fighting hypnic headaches, a fairly rare type of pain that interrupts sleep typically in people middle-aged and older. Caffeine treatment – possibly even before the event of the headache – may help offset the incidence of pain. Aside from that, caffeine can be an excellent solution for dealing with migraines. But not always.
This review found that for up to 30 percent of individuals, caffeine withdrawal is a major cause of migraines. Withdrawal doesn’t mean that a person has given up caffeine completely – it can simply mean about the time caffeine fully leaves the bloodstream. So without carefully calibrating caffeine intake, a person can set themselves up for migraines.
The authors of the review noted that in their findings a maximum intake of 200 mg of caffeine daily – and remaining consistent with that level – is best for anyone who suffers from migraines to avoid the pain of withdrawal.
Nowaczewska M, Wiciński M, Kaźmierczak W. The Ambiguous Role of Caffeine in Migraine Headache: From Trigger to Treatment. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 28;12(8):2259. doi: 10.3390/nu12082259. PMID: 32731623; PMCID: PMC7468766.
Migraine is a chronic disorder, and caffeine has been linked with migraine for many years, on the one hand as a trigger, and on the other hand as a cure. As most of the population, including migraineurs, consume a considerable amount of caffeine daily, a question arises as to whether it influences their headaches. Indeed, drinking coffee before a migraine attack may not be a real headache trigger, but a consequence of premonitory symptoms, including yawning, diminished energy levels, and sleepiness that may herald a headache. Here, we aim to summarize the available evidence on the relationship between caffeine and migraines. Articles concerning this topic published up to June 2020 were retrieved by searching clinical databases, and all types of studies were included. We identified 21 studies investigating the prevalence of caffeine/caffeine withdrawal as a migraine trigger and 7 studies evaluating caffeine in acute migraine treatment. Among them, in 17 studies, caffeine/caffeine withdrawal was found to be a migraine trigger in a small percentage of participants (ranging from 2% to 30%), while all treatment studies found caffeine to be safe and effective in acute migraine treatment, mostly in combination with other analgesics. Overall, based on our review of the current literature, there is insufficient evidence to recommend caffeine cessation to all migraine patients, but it should be highlighted that caffeine overuse may lead to migraine chronification, and sudden caffeine withdrawal may trigger migraine attacks. Migraine sufferers should be aware of the amount of caffeine they consume and not exceed 200 mg daily. If they wish to continue drinking caffeinated beverages, they should keep their daily intake as consistent as possible to avoid withdrawal headache.