Caffeine Headache: How to get rid of caffeine headaches

Caffeine Headache: How to get rid of caffeine headaches

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Have you ever had a day when skipping your usual cup of coffee left you with an intense headache, nausea, and a general feeling of unwellness? 

If so, you’ve probably experienced the dreaded caffeine withdrawal headache. These headaches are pretty common and result from an abrupt lack of caffeine. Luckily, there are some easy ways to prevent them from happening again.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase alertness and energy levels. It's also a diuretic, which helps the body get rid of fluids. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, chocolate, and over-the-counter medications.

While caffeine is safe for most people, consuming too much can lead to side effects like caffeine dependence, headaches, anxiety, irritability, and trouble sleeping.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to get rid of caffeine headaches and tips that will help prevent them from happening in the first place!

What Causes a Headache? 

caffeine headache

The beginning stages of a headache happen when blood vessels around the brain change. These blood vessels can swell or tighten, which puts pressure on the surrounding nerves. The brain perceives this pressure as pain, which is what we identify as a headache. 

A caffeine headache is often described as a throbbing pain on the sides of your head. It’s often accompanied by feelings of nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and general malaise.

Understanding caffeine headaches is the first step in banishing them for good. So, let's dive in and learn how to eliminate caffeine headaches!

Can Caffeine Help a Headache? 

caffeine may help a headache

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that causes blood vessels to become more narrow. This narrowing of the blood vessels reduces the pressure on the nerves and, thus, does not send pain signals to the brain. In this way, caffeine can help to alleviate a headache. When caffeine is combined with ibuprofen (or other anti-inflammatory pain relievers), caffeine can help to boost absorption. Research has shown that 120 mg of caffeine (approximately two cups of coffee) significantly increased the absorption rate of an NSAID. 

What Is A Caffeine Headache? 

what is a caffeine headache

When we consistently consume caffeine, our bodies adapt and become used to the effects of caffeine. Since caffeine constricts the blood vessels, when caffeine is suddenly not present, the vasculature expands. The larger blood vessels allow for a greater amount of blood to flow around the brain. This added volume of blood puts pressure on the surrounding nerves and causes us to feel the pain associated with a headache. This is why we can experience withdrawal headaches when we consistently consume caffeine then suddenly stop. The withdrawal symptoms can persist for a couple of weeks until the body becomes acclimated to a lack of caffeine. 

What Causes Caffeine Headaches, And How Do You Know If You’re Susceptible? 

what causes caffeine headaches

If you regularly consume caffeine, you may be more prone to caffeine headaches than those who rarely drink it. If you’re not sure you’re susceptible, try cutting back on your caffeine intake and see if your frequency of headaches decreases.

If your headaches start to decrease or disappear, you’re probably highly susceptible to them. If you’re unsure how much caffeine you are consuming, you can check the nutrition information on most products to determine how much caffeine they contain.

Coffee, soda, energy drinks, and tea are all high in caffeine. Still, caffeine can also be found in smaller amounts in many foods and beverages, including chocolate, cola, and some dairy products like yogurt.

Most caffeinated drinks and foods are labeled as containing caffeine, but some require careful inspection of the label in order to properly identify the caffeinated ingredients. 

Tips On How To Get Rid Of Caffeine Headaches

For some people who are sensitive to caffeine or for those who have become caffeine-dependent, these side effects can be more severe.

If you're experiencing headaches after drinking caffeine, it's important to cut back on your intake or eliminate it. Here are some tips on how to do that:

Apply Menthol 

peppermint oil for headaches

Research has shown that when menthol is applied to the skin, it may help to reduce inflammation. If the headache was caused by tension, then menthol may help. Since the active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol, applying a few drops of peppermint oil to the temples or forehead may help. Please be sure to read the packaging to be sure that the oil can be safely applied to the skin without dilution. 

Drink Plenty Of Water

Staying hydrated is important for overall health and can help prevent headaches. When you drink caffeinated beverages, they act as a diuretic and can cause dehydration. As dehydration occurs, the brain shrinks. This small change in volume is enough to trigger a headache. 

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help keep your body hydrated and may help to prevent headaches. The volume of fluid needed to stay hydrated is different for every person. A good guide is to check your urine stream when you pee. If your urine is dark yellow, that is a sign of dehydration. A clear urine stream indicates hydration. 

Limit Your Intake

If you're used to drinking large amounts of caffeine, cutting back gradually can help minimize withdrawal symptoms like headaches. Try reducing your intake by 25% each week until you're down to a manageable level.

If you’ve determined that you’re highly susceptible to caffeine headaches, the best thing you can do is to cut back on your caffeine intake. If you cut back too quickly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. 

To avoid these symptoms, reduce your intake slowly. If you normally drink two cups of coffee a day, try cutting back to just one cup a day for a few days, then dropping to one cup every other day, then every two days, and so on.

Apply Ice to Your Neck 

ice the neck to help reduce headache pain

Since caffeine withdrawal headaches are caused by the expansion of blood vessels, remedies that restrict blood vessels can ease this pain. If you are trying to reduce your caffeine consumption then we will try to steer clear of reaching for a coffee to abate your headache. Instead, try applying ice to your neck. Research has shown that the cold works to quickly constrict the blood vessels and reduce the pain associated with headaches. Try applying the ice pack over your carotid artery. There are two carotid arteries, one on either side of your neck. The cold compress may help to alleviate your headache. 

Release Pressure Points 

pressure points for headache relief

Acupressure, or applying pressure to certain pressure points, has been used in Chinese medicine to temporarily release pains throughout the body.  The pressure point that corresponds to headache pain is LI-4. It is located on the back of the hand, at the base of the thumb and index finger. Try applying pressure to this location on each hand for five minutes on each side to ease headache pain.  

Take A Break From Coffee

If you’ve tried reducing your caffeine intake but are still experiencing headaches, you may want to take a break from coffee for a few days or weeks and see how you feel.

Regular coffee drinkers often develop a caffeine tolerance, meaning they need more and more coffee to get the same effects.

If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you may want to take a break from coffee every once in a while to reset your tolerance and prevent caffeine headaches.

Avoid Caffeine In The Evening

Caffeine can stay in your system for more than six hours, so if you're having trouble sleeping, avoid caffeine in the evening.

Caffeine can cause trouble sleeping, which can lead to headaches. If you're having trouble sleeping, try avoiding caffeine after lunchtime.

Eat Regularly 

eat regularly to help avoid caffeine headaches

Eating regularly, especially before consuming caffeine, can help reduce the likelihood of caffeine headaches. This is because caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the brain more quickly when you are hungry.

Eating regular meals can slow down this process and help prevent headaches. Eating at the same time every day can also help you regulate your caffeine intake and meal schedule.

Coffee and caffeine-containing foods can also cause indigestion, heartburn, and general discomfort for those sensitive to caffeine. Eating regularly can help regulate your caffeine intake and prevent this discomfort.

Talk To Your Doctor 

talk to your doctor about headaches

If you're experiencing severe or persistent headaches, talk to your doctor. They can rule out other causes and help you find a treatment that works.

Migraine pain could also be another reason you’re getting headaches. If you suffer from migraines, it might be worth checking in with a doctor to see how you can manage them. Caffeine can trigger migraines in some people, so cutting back on your intake may help reduce the frequency of your headaches.

The migraine patient will be medically reviewed for other causes that may be causing the headaches before being given a diagnosis of caffeine headache. Afterward, the doctor will help you find a treatment that works for you.

Exercise Regularly 

exercise regularly for headache relief

Regular exercise can help reduce caffeine-related headaches, fatigue, and stress. Increasing your physical activity can prevent you from consuming too much caffeine in the first place, which may help you avoid caffeine headaches completely.

Exercising regularly can also help you get better sleep at night, which can help you avoid caffeine headaches in the morning. Regular exercise can also help reduce diet-related caffeine headaches and other types of headaches.

If you experience caffeine headaches frequently, try to exercise regularly and see if your headaches decrease.

Find Dark Room And Relaxation Time 

If you’re experiencing caffeine-induced headaches, try dimming your lights and taking some time to relax to help alleviate the pain. If you’re experiencing a caffeine headache, you may want to avoid bright lights and loud noises to help soothe the pain.

If this is the case, try to get to a quiet and dimly lit room, relax for a few minutes, and see if the pain goes away. This may allow you to wait out the caffeine headache and avoid taking painkillers or other medications.

To relieve headache pain, try these: 

  • Place a cold compress on your neck.
  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water. Dehydration can make headaches worse.
  • Massage your neck and shoulders to relax tension.
  • Try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Always consult with your doctor before taking any medication.
  • If you're a woman, ask your doctor if taking estrogen may be beneficial for you. Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle can trigger headaches.

Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches

how to get rid of caffeine headaches

When we consistently consume caffeine, we develop a tolerance.  You may have noticed that the morning cup of coffee has gradually become two cups, or that a single cup does not provide the alertness it once did. Both of these are signs that you have developed a tolerance to caffeine.  

Caffeine dependence can lead to withdrawal headaches when you suddenly stop using caffeine. These headaches are usually the most severe during the first few days of withdrawal and can last up to a couple of weeks.

Withdrawal headaches can be prevented by slowly reducing your caffeine intake over a period of days or weeks instead of stopping abruptly. Caffeine withdrawal can cause various symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms after quitting caffeine, you must talk to your doctor. They can help you manage your symptoms and get through withdrawal.

When you're experiencing a caffeine withdrawal headache, you can do a few things to try to get rid of it. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms typically peak around day two or three and then start to improve.


Caffeine consumption can lead to headaches in some people. If you’re prone to caffeine headaches, you can do a few things to prevent them. 

Caffeine headaches are fairly common in people who consume caffeine regularly. While they’re not particularly serious, they can be incredibly uncomfortable, so it’s important to know how to get rid of them.

If you’re experiencing caffeine headaches, try reducing your caffeine intake and taking a break from coffee. It would be best if you also tried to avoid over-consuming other caffeinated foods and beverages to help prevent headaches from happening in the first place.


Author: Amanda Richardson

Expertly Reviewed and Updated 4/18/2023 by Dr. Colleen Gulick