Rebound headache

Painkillers taken too frequently actually cause headaches.

Rebound headache is the main cause of chronic frequent cephalgia, as it's known. It is directly the result of overuse of painkillers.

Chronic Frequent Headache is defined as:

  1. Headache for at least 14 days per month, for
  2. Three consecutive months.

One in twenty-five people (1/25) suffer from CFH.

New research from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands confirms what is already known; the main cause of chronic frequent headache is taking too many painkillers or anti inflammatory tablets.

This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 17th July, 2019.

Chronic frequent headache

Migraine headache woman

Do you suffer from chronic frequent headache? It's time to stop and think, not reach for the bottle of analgesics; then it's likely to progress to rebound headache.

Do you, should you feel a headache coming on, immediately reach for a painkiller?

Or do you perhaps take an analgesic in advance, even every day, just in case you are going to get a headache? That is what pain relievers are for, is that not right?

Pain relievers do offer quick relief for occasional headaches, but if you find yourself taking analgesics more than two or three days a week, you are actually contributing to the cause of your problem rather than relieving it.

It is a vicious cycle known as rebound headache.

The cycle begins when you start taking too much medication; more than the label instructs or your doctor prescribes. Soon, your body adapts to the pain killer.

You may not even realize that you have been dosing yourself too often until you miss a day and your head starts to hurt again, sometimes more intensely than before.

The only way to stop these chronic frequent headaches is to reduce or stop taking the pain medication that is causing them. It is tough, but there is no other way.

Do you go to the toilet most days? A minimum is at least five times a week? Constipation is certainly a cause of headaches, and a host of other nasties; piles, colorectal malignant disease and inflamed intestinal villi.

Interestingly, chronic constipation is the most common complaint of the intestinal tract in western civilisation.

Difficulty passing a stool, a bloated feeling and being generally headachey and miserable are features.

If you have none of these, yet go to the toilet only three times a week, some authorities would consider it normal; I would not and in particular if you suffer from chronic frequent headache.

Medication will only worsen the problem. Look rather to our quick constipation relief and beetroot pages; more dietary fibre is the solution.

Cause of headache

Understanding the cause of headache is the start of healing; taking bucket loads of pills without considering the underlying problem is madness, and likely to progress to rebound headache.

The vast majority of headaches come from a problem in the

  1. Neck. It could be muscular, for example from long hours at the computer, or from a subluxation in the spine. Or old injury, a whiplash perhaps, or the poor spinal posture caused by a short leg or scoliosis. It's a complex subject... NECK PAIN ...
  2. The jaw and jaw joints. Just this week I've had two long standing elderly patients with sudden onset of severe headaches. Both have a history of neck-headaches, but I could find little wrong with their necks. Both had severe facial pain, jaw joint pain and jawbone pain. Both had an abscess in the gums.Jaw joint dysfunction is a common source of headaches. Place your index fingers in your ears, with the pulp of your finger facing forwards. Open and close your mouth. Clicking, popping, pain? TMJ exercises ...
  3. The sinuses. This cause of headache tends to be rather obvious; a streaming nose with pain around the frontal or maxillary sinuses. A Valsalva manoever may cause extreme pain; bearing down or coughing.

Isn't it time to visit your chiropractor, and find out what is the cause of your headaches? You may yourself ironically be the cause of your headaches by taking so many painkillers or anti inflammatory drugs ...


Constipation is a primary cause of headache; having all that toxic faeces lodged in your colon for days and weeks sometimes has a profound effect on your overall health.

More soluble fibre is the solution, and the beetroot and prunes are the best solution for constipation headaches.

Contipation man on loo is also a cause of headaches


Well, yes, it's a moot point. Do your headaches make you exhausted, or is exhaustion one of the underlying causes of your headaches? When did you last take a three continuous weeks holiday? Maybe it's time...

Thunderclap headache

Thunderclap headache is not a job for your chiropractor, or medical doctor for that matter; and it's not likely to cause rebound headache.

Sudden onset (within 1-2 minutes) of a very severe headache, often described as the "worst headache of my life" is not the time to take pills, or phone your chiropractor. Whilst the cause of THUNDERCLAP HEADACHE is usually reversible, a stroke needs to be ruled out. The cause? Molecules which stick to the walls of an artery in the brain, causing sudden cutting off of the blood supply, will cause a very severe, sudden-onset headache. Prevention is the key - focusing on

  • Healthy cholesterol management .. CHOLESTEROL ALCOHOL ...
  • Atherosclerosis is the clogging of arteries by a complex mix of cholesterol, oxidised fats, hydrogenated fats and the toxic chemicals produced by diesel fumes and smoking for example. Understanding the PATHOPHYSIOLOGY OF ATHEROSCLEROSIS is vital for every single human being.
  • fish in your diet ... FISH SOUP >>
  • benefits of exercise. WALKING BENEFITS ...
  • Avoiding hydrogenated foods ... including margarine
  • An apple a day ... APPLE DIET ...

For more about THUNDERCLAP HEADACHE click here...

Rebound headache checkpoint

Rebound headache checkpoint is vital periodically; in fact if you are taking any medication on a regular basis. Drugs are the primary cause of doctor-caused disease, the third biggest killer after blood vessel disease and cancer.

Read more for another medical opinion from WebMD, Rebound headaches.

If you are taking more than half a dozen painkillers per week for your headaches, then it is time to consult your health professional. Obviously we would encourage you to see a chiropractor, but do consult with the person you trust. Taking pills month after month is injurious to your health and is the known cause of Rebound Headache. And a heap of other problems.

Glycemic index

Glycemic index of carbohydrates is one of the fundamentals that every person should understand, and it's at the heart of some folk's rebound headache.

Wild swings in blood sugar are not good and it comes from understanding why white rice, for example, is so bad for you, but a butternut is fine.

These dramatic surges in blood glucose can also trigger headaches. Knowing the glycemic index of the common carbs in your diet will help you to adjust your diet - simple changes - to maintain a more even keel. 

It's also fundamental to preventing the onset of rebound headache, and to keeping your weight on target.

Chiropractic help

Chiropractic help is the place to start if you are looking for the primary cause of your rebound headaches.

Chiropractic first, then pills and surgery


Nothing like relaxing with a good book if you're feeling uptight and tense. This fun read by chiropractor Bernard Preston is a must for every chiropractic patient suffering from rebound headache.


Stones in my clog by a chiropractor


Neck pain

Neck pain and rebound headache is really the domain where chiropractic comes into its own; true, cures are less common, but for the safe management of cephalgia, your DC is where you'll find the best help.

Classically in chiropractic philosophy subluxations in the upper cervical spine are considered the major cause of what we could call chiropractic headaches. This is probably true in eighty percent of cases.

But what of the other twenty?

Recently, in desperation, having cleared all upper cervical subluxations, with minimal relief of headache, I decided to look elsewhere. Adjusting the first rib on the left fixed this lady's chronic headaches.

This is perhaps just a reminder, to myself too, that when treatment is not succeeding in the way expected, we should consider looking elsewhere.

TMJ anatomy

TMJ anatomy helps you grasp how these paired joints can cause such painful migraines; not really of the rebound headache type unless you start swallowing bucket loads of analgesics, but the underlying primary cause of this misery.

The jaw joint is a not uncommon cause of severe migraine headaches and facial pain. Because the sensory nucleus of the trigeminal nerve is located in the upper cervical spine, neck problems are often a feature as well.

Because it is becoming chronic you start taking more medication, and then on top of a neck or jaw joint problem you find yourself also suffering from rebound headaches from all the analgesics.

The features are usually not that surprising. Do you have a clicking or popping jaw joint when chewing, yawning, kissing or even just speaking?

Is there pain just in front of the ear, often spreading out into the muscles of the jaw? The masseter and temporalis on the side of the skull are common areas. Look up in the navigation bar our TMJ anatomy page.

In its severest form this may lead to a particularly nasty condition called trigeminal neuralgia. Severe facial pain and headaches are the main features.

  1. Chiropractic Help
  2. Head neck pain
  3. Rebound headache

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

Have a problem that is not getting better? Looking for a different slant on your pain? Want to pose a question?

Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.
You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what a DC does.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my eBooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful from the life and work of a chiropractor, you will love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the amount without telling me.