Medicines That Can Cause Headaches


October 8, 2023

If you’re looking for the culprit of the throbbing pain in your head, you may want to jot down the names of the medicines you take. All medications have side effects, and sometimes a headache is one of them.

A wide variety of medicines, including birth control pills, heart drugs, and even pain relief medications, can cause headaches. But if your head starts hurting, don’t stop your medicine on your own. Always talk to your doctor first so the two of you can figure out what your next step should be. They may suggest you change your dose or switch to a different drug.

Headache Medicines

OK, this may not be what you were hoping to hear, but the truth is some medicines that are used to treat headaches can actually cause them.

It’s called a rebound headache. It happens when you use pain relief drugs several times a week. As your medication wears off, you get a headache again, which leads you to take even more medicine. Eventually, you find yourself getting headaches more and more, and often with greater pain.

  • The trouble can happen with both over-the-counter and prescription pain medicines. Some examples of drugs that can cause rebound headaches are:
  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen
  • Sleeping pills
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Codeine and prescription pain relievers
  • Medicines that contain caffeine
  • Migraine drugs called triptans

The best way to treat rebound headaches is to not take the medicine anymore. Work with your doctor to come off of the medication that may be causing them. You may be able to stop taking the drug, or you may need to gradually reduce the dose.

Keep in mind that when you stop the medicine, you may get withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sleep problems, diarrhea, or worse headaches. The good news is that once you quit the medicine and your rebound headaches go away, the drugs you take for headaches can be more effective.

Birth Control Pills
They have a mixed track record when it comes to headaches. Some women who get migraines find that hormonal birth control helps treat them. Others find that birth control pills and other hormonal birth control methods, such as the patch or vaginal ring, cause migraines.

If you get headaches and take birth control pills, your headaches may be due to the drop in estrogen that occurs during the days when you take the inactive or placebo pills. Here’s what can help:

  • Use a birth control pill that has fewer inactive pill days, such as Seasonale, Seasonique, or others.
  • Use a type of birth control pill that has lower levels of estrogen.
  • Switch to an IUD (intrauterine device) for birth control.
  • Take over-the-counter or prescription headache medicine during the inactive pill days.
  • Try a birth control pill that only contains progestin instead of a combination of estrogen and progestin.
  • Take a low dose of estrogen pills or wear an estrogen patch during the inactive pill days.

– By Medically Reviewed by Murtaza Cassoobhoy, MD | Written by Paige Fowler | Source- WebMd