Common painkillers could be causing people to have headaches, the health watchdog has warned.
People who regularly take medicines such as aspirin, paracetamol and triptans could be causing themselves more pain than relief, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said.
Medication "overuse" could contribute to headaches for people who have been taking such medicines for up to half of the days in a month over three months, a spokesman said.
The watchdog estimated that one in 50 people who experience headaches suffer because of medication overuse.
Nice said common over-the-counter treatments are effective for easing the pain of occasional headaches but using them for tension-type headaches or migraine can reduce their effectiveness and cause further pain.
8 Foods That Fight Pain
Turmeric For Muscle Pain
According to previous research, turmeric is more effective in tackling pain relief and inflammation than steroid medications. According to researchers from the<a href="http://www.nih.gov/" target="_hplink"> National Institutes of Health</a>, the pain relief properties from turmeric are more prevalent to <a href="http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Rheumatoid-arthritis/Pages/Introduction.aspx" target="_hplink">rheumatoid arthritis</a> sufferers, as it inhibits the destruction of joints from arthritis. Turmeric contains a protein called NF-kB, which, when turned on, activates the body's inflammatory response, which helps battles aches and pains.
Red Grapes For Back Pain
Red grapes are packed full of resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant compound that blocks enzymes that degenerate tissue damage, which can lead to joint and muscle pain. According to the <a href="http://www.rush.edu/" target="_hplink">Rush University Medical Center</a>, resveratrol helps protect against cartilage damage that causes back pain in particular. Another study by the <a href="http://www.msu.edu/" target="_hplink">Michigan State University</a> found that cherry extract is ten times more effective than aspirin when it comes to relieving inflammation in the body. Other berries rich in back-pain fighting resveratrol include blueberries, cranberries and blackberries.
Ginger For Knee Pain
Ginger is well known for its ability to block the pain-causing prostaglandin levels in the body. Ginger has long been used as a natural method of pain relief, particularly in India, where researchers regularly test its inflammation and pain relief properties. According to research by the <a href="http://www.miami.edu/" target="_hplink">University of Miami</a>, researchers discovered that two third of patients with chronic knee pain reported less soreness after taking a daily dose of ginger extract for six weeks. Health experts recommend a daily dosage of 500 to 1,000mg of ginger a day to help ward off aches and pains.
Soy For Joint Pain
Research by the <a href="http://osu.okstate.edu/welcome/" target="_hplink">Oklahoma State University</a> found that osteoarthritis sufferers who consumed 40g of soy protein a day for three months, reported a 30% improvement on their arthritis-related knee pain. Soy contains bundles of <a href="http://www.isoflavones.info/" target="_hplink">isoflavones</a>, a plant hormone with strong anti-inflammatory properties, which helps reduce the discomfort of osteoarthritis and other related joint pains.
Salmon For Neck Pain
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for keeping the immune system healthy - and warding off inflammation and chronic neck pain. During research at the <a href="http://www.pitt.edu/" target="_hplink">University of Pittsburgh</a>, 60% of participants experienced enhanced pain relief from eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements for three months. The effect was so great, almost as many stopped taking their daily pain relief as a result. Besides salmon, other fish that contain high levels of the essential EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids include halibut, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.
Cherries For Arthritis
Cherries, like the other members of the berry family, contain high amounts of antioxidants called anthocyanins - the key compound to the cherry's pain fighting power. According to research by the <a href="http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/" target="_hplink">Department of Agriculture</a>, participants who ate 45 big cherries daily for 28 days reduced their inflammation levels significantly. Researchers found that cherry anthocyanins are especially effective in treating arthritis symptoms, as participants of the study said their joint pain had improved as a result of consuming cherries or cherry juice. Anthocyanins contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties.
Coffee For Post-Workout Pain
If you ever wondered why over-the-counter painkillers contain caffeine, it's because coffee enhances the effects of common pain relief. It also acts as a natural pain reliever itself, particularly good for post-workout aches and pains. Researchers from the <a href="http://www.uga.edu/" target="_hplink">University of Georgia</a> discovered that patients who drank two cups of coffee after working out, reduced common post-workout aches and pains by almost 50%. Experts also claim that caffeine is good for a pre-workout boost too, as it has been proven to raise the body's pain threshold.
Sage For Sore Throats
The humble sage is commonly used to treat throat ailments, like tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, gum disease, laryngitis, as well as other problems like headaches, bruises, bad memory and common menopause symptoms. Sage contains rosmarinic acid, which is absorbed into the body and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which soothes inflamed muscles. Add it to boiling water and make your own sage tea, or sprinkle it as a seasoning on your food.
People who suffer from such headaches could be in a vicious cycle where their headaches are getting worse because of medication overuse and to alleviate symptoms they take more drugs.
Issuing new guidance to healthcare professionals, Nice said that different headaches require different treatments and so a correct diagnosis is vital.
More than 10 million people in the UK experience regular or frequent headaches, according to Nice. They account for one in 25 GP consultations.
Martin Underwood, a GP and professor of primary care research at Warwick Medical School who chaired the guideline's development, said: "We have effective treatments for common headache types.
"However, taking these medicines for more than 10 or 15 days a month can cause medication overuse headache, which is a disabling and preventable disorder.
"Patients with frequent tension-type headaches or migraines can get themselves into a vicious cycle, where their headaches are getting increasingly worse, so they take more medication which makes their pain even worse as they take more medication.
"I hope this guideline will improve awareness of medication overuse headache both in primary care and among the general public because prevention is simple and treatment is difficult.
"Explaining to patients that they should abruptly stop their medication, knowing that their headache will get much worse for several weeks before it will improve, is not an easy consultation."
Dr Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of Nice, added: "Although headache is the most common neurological problem seen by GPs and neurologists, many people are not receiving correct or timely diagnoses.
"The key features of medication overuse and the symptoms that distinguish the types of primary headache can be overlooked and concerns from patients about possible underlying causes can lead to unnecessary hospital investigations.
"These can mean people experience delays in receiving adequate pain relief from what can be an extremely disabling condition.
"Our guideline outlines the assessments and treatments that people should expect to receive for primary headaches and medication overuse. We hope that this will help GPs and other healthcare professionals to correctly diagnose the type of headache disorder and better recognise patients whose headaches could be caused by their over-reliance on medications."
How To Ease, Treat And Prevent Migraines
If you suffer from regular migraines, your doctor might prescribe you acute (treatment) and prophylactic (prevention) medicine. You may be given the following: <strong>Anticonvulsant</strong>, such as divaloproex sodium (sodium valproate), topiramate or gabapentin <strong>Antidepressant</strong>, such as amitriptyline <strong>Antihistimine</strong>, such as cyproheptadine <strong>Beta-blockers</strong>, such as propranolol, metoprolol, timolol, nadolol <strong>Anti-inflammatory drug</strong>, such as pizotefen Not all medication has to be prescibred as you can get the following non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) over-the-counter: Apisrin Ibuprofen Paracetamol Codeine
If you don't want to take medication and prefer to treat the problem mechanically, you can try the following at home: <strong>Change your temperature.</strong> Try applying an icepack, or a hot water bottle, to the painful area. Hot or cold showers and a long soak in the bath does help some sufferers, or try soaking the hands and feet in hot or cold water. <strong>Apply pressure.</strong> Try applying pressure to the pulse points on the side of the forehead or neck to relieve the headache. <strong>Moderate exercise.</strong> Experts claim that easy exercise, like swimming and brisk walking, can have a therapeutic effect on migraines. <strong>Keep a diary.</strong> Note down symptoms, date and time of attacks and what you've eaten and drunk. This will help you identify possible triggers.
Lack of sodium can be pinpointed as a cause of migraines and could explain why migraine sufferers crave a salty snack after an attack. In moderation, salt can have health benefits, so if you feel the onset of a migraine developing, add a tiny amount of salt into a glass of water and sip slowly.
Some migraine sufferers swear by complementary treatments like the following: <strong>Acupuncture.</strong> A type of alternative medicine that treats patients by insertion and manipulation of thin needles in the body, stimulating the anatomical locations under the skin called acupuncture points. <strong>Chiropractic.</strong> Helps treat and prevent neuromusculoskeletal condition by manipulating the spine, joints and soft tissue. <strong> Homoeopathy.</strong> A form of alternative natural medicine that treats patients with liquid 'remedies' that apparently help relieve pain. <strong>Herbalism.</strong> An old traditional form of medicine made entirely of plants and plant extracts which help relieve pain and discomfort from within.
It sounds obvious, but a big cause of migraines is down to dehydration. It's currently recommended that people drink between six to eight glasses of water a drink to help keep the body functioning properly.
Botox injections were licensed in 2010 to be used on people suffering from severe headaches and migraines. Although the evidence surrounding this treatment is still inconclusive, previous clinical trials have proved that it makes a difference if administered regularly. The treatment is currently available privately and costs between £400 to £600.
Peter May, who helped develop this guideline, added: "Having experienced cluster headaches for 12 years and initially being told that I was suffering from migraines, I believe there is a real need for diagnosis to be improved.
"The pain I experience in an attack lasts around 45 minutes to an hour, and is excruciating, like being stabbed in my eye with a red hot poker.
"It took two years for me to receive a correct diagnosis, but I believe I am one of the fortunate ones as I know people who have gone 20 years.
"There are effective treatments available but they differ according to the type of headache and so having a correct diagnosis as soon as possible is crucial."