JUL 12, 2021 6:40 PM PDT

Is Caffeine Good or Bad for Migraines?

WRITTEN BY: Alexandria Bass


The short answer is it's still not certain if caffeine helps or worsens migraines, but chronic consumption of caffeine is associated with an increased migraine burden. This association may exist because caffeine intake contributes to migraines or because migraine sufferers consume more caffeine in an effort to treat their migraines. Researchers also caution that "migraines" that appear to be relieved by caffeine consumption may not be true migraines but headaches from caffeine withdrawals that resolve when caffeine is consumed.

So how does caffeine jolt us awake and possibly influence migraines? The answer lies in its effects on the nervous system through the adenosine receptor.

Adenosine is a chemical formed by the breakdown of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a compound found in all forms of life to provide energy to cells. In the nervous system, adenosine inhibits neuronal excitability, inhibiting motor activity and promoting sleep. Caffeine is an adenosine receptor antagonist – it binds to adenosine receptors to block their inhibitory effects. Caffeine's interaction with adenosine is also thought to contribute to its ability to reduce pain.

Migraines involve recurrent, intense head pain and hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli. They're usually preceded by predictable symptoms different for each sufferer, such as nausea, yawning, visual alterations, difficulty concentrating, and increased emotionality. After head pain has resolved, fatigue and continued difficulty concentrating may be present. Migraines can be triggered by stress, bright light, or poor sleep and have peak occurrences early in the morning and in the afternoon. The underlying pathophysiology of migraines remains unknown, but increased adenosine levels during migraine attacks have been found and adenosine given intravenously can trigger migraines. 

Researchers suggest a need for studies examining how long-term elimination of caffeine affects migraine burden to see if there's a reduction in burden from reduced caffeine intake.

Sources: PubMed

About the Author
  • Alexandria (Alex) is a freelance science writer with a passion for educating the public on health issues. Her other professional experience includes working as a speech-language pathologist in health care, a research assistant in a food science laboratory, and an English teaching assistant in Spain. In her spare time, Alex enjoys cycling, lap swimming, jogging, and reading.
You May Also Like
SEP 02, 2021
Immunology
Will an Extra COVID Vaccine Shot Benefit People With Autoimmune Conditions?
SEP 02, 2021
Will an Extra COVID Vaccine Shot Benefit People With Autoimmune Conditions?
The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has helped save countless lives during the pandemic. Studies have shown that vac ...
SEP 08, 2021
Technology
Vaping Devices With Nicotine Increase the Frequency of Blood Clots
SEP 08, 2021
Vaping Devices With Nicotine Increase the Frequency of Blood Clots
The safety of e-cigarettes, or vaping devices, has been the topic of fierce debate recently. Some advocates suggest that ...
SEP 09, 2021
Health & Medicine
Cannabis and Pain Management- A Double Edged Sword?
SEP 09, 2021
Cannabis and Pain Management- A Double Edged Sword?
In 2016 it was estimated by the CDC that 20.4% of Americans have chronic pain. Chronic pain is a primary reaso ...
SEP 11, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
New NIH Consortium Aims to Understand the Impact of Genetic Variants
SEP 11, 2021
New NIH Consortium Aims to Understand the Impact of Genetic Variants
Scientists sequenced most of the human genome abut two decades ago. It took many years to complete the project because o ...
SEP 16, 2021
Microbiology
Medication May Build Up in Gut Bacteria, Impacting the Drug & Microbiome
SEP 16, 2021
Medication May Build Up in Gut Bacteria, Impacting the Drug & Microbiome
Gut microbes are crucial to our health. They aid in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. But they can also ...
SEP 17, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Stem Cells May Aid in the Treatment of MRSA
SEP 17, 2021
How Stem Cells May Aid in the Treatment of MRSA
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a well known superbug, a pathogenic microbe that can cause serious ...
Loading Comments...