Jun
19
2013

Why do stress and migraine medications contain caffeine?

Anyone who has ever had one can tell you that a stress headache or migraine headache are no fun; they can ruin a person’s entire day because of debilitating pain. When you look at pain-relieving medication, you notice it has a wide variety of ingredients. Oftentimes painkillers that use caffeine work better against these types of pain – why is that?

The features

Painkillers that have caffeine are mainly used to treat headaches. The reason for that is that caffeine will make the medication more effective. Most people know that caffeine stimulates our central nervous system, thus making us more awake and alert. This is one of the main reasons people drink coffee in the morning. However, the stimulation of the central nervous system also ensures that the pain reliever works faster. Your body feels quicker relief if it can absorb the medication faster. An additional benefit is that because it works faster, oftentimes less medication is needed.

A little more about caffeine

How does it work? Caffeine mainly works by stopping adenosine from working. When this happens in the body, the excitatory state of your neurons decrease. As a result, our body begins to release specific neurotransmitters to make up for that – most notably dopamine. While dopamine does not necessarily relieve pain, it does provide our system with an overall sense of well-being. This is another reason that many people equate a cup of coffee to feeling “good” in the morning.

Benefits of using caffeine

The reason that you see these pain relieving medications advertised as migraine relieve such as Excedrin

Migraine Caplets or extra-strength such as Excedrin Extra Strength is because it blocks adenosine as previously mentioned. According to the American Headache Society, studies have shown that the amount of adenosine in the brain increases when a person suffers a migraine attack, thus dilating the blood vessels in the brain. This contributes to headache pain because it creates excess pressure.

However, if you suffer from migraines you would do well to lay off coffee and caffeinated drinks altogether. Not necessarily because it would cause additional headaches, but because studies have shown that these type of medication are most beneficial when you do not have a regular consumption of caffeine. When you do, the body can build up a tolerance, thus lowering the pain relieving effects.

Considerations with this type of medication

Even though it will make pain medications work better, you have to remember that people can become dependent on caffeine. Because everyone has a different sensitivity to caffeine, you are not going to know until you try it for yourself. If you are unsure at what levels you might experience additional problems, (such as getting a headache when not actively using caffeine) you can always discuss this with your physician.

 

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