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The Caffeine Withdrawal Headache Explained

Ever miss your daily beak for coffee and subsequently get a pounding headache?

That’s called caffeine withdrawal.

People who experience it report headaches, fatigue, feeling less alert, and have difficulty concentrating.

While caffeine withdrawal headache isn’t serious, it is a serious nuisance.

Analyzing the Brain On and Off Caffeine

Researchers from the University of Vermont College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine wanted to investigate the brain both ON and OFF caffeine.

They looked at brain electrical activity and blood flow during caffeine withdrawal to examine what was taking place physiologically during acute caffeine abstinence.

The group examined caffeine’s consequences in a double-blind survey, which involved the administration of caffeine and placebo capsules. What they found was fascinating.

Stopping Caffeine Consumption Causing Withdrawal Symptoms

The team found that stopping daily caffeine consumption creates changes in cerebral blood flow velocity and quantitative EEG that are likely related to the classic caffeine withdrawal symptoms of headache, drowsiness and reduced alertness. More specifically, acute caffeine abstinence increased brain blood flow, an effect that may account for commonly reported withdrawal headaches.

The researchers also detected an unexpected finding — that there were no net benefits associated with chronic caffeine consumption.

“In contrast to what most of us coffee devotees would think, our study demonstrated no difference between when the participant was maintained on chronic placebo and when the participant was stabilized on chronic caffeine administration. What this means is that consuming caffeine regularly does not appear to produce any net beneficial effects, based on the measures we examined,” said Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D ., research associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and first writer on the study.

Will this study keep people away from Starbucks? Not a chance. But it absolutely proves that those caffeine withdrawal headaches we thought we were experiencing are actually real.

Southern California Headache and Migraine Treatment 

Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment for TMJ/TMD, migraine, headaches and neck pain in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.