Caffeine Headache – Location, Causes and Management

Caffeine Headache is a typical headache reported in people who consume excessive amounts of caffeine every day. Missing on their cup of coffee at the usual time might trigger an episode. Their brain gets used to the coffee Thus, experience withdrawal symptoms.

Location of pain

Headache is typically felt on both sides of the head like a migraine, with pain that starts behind the eyes, moving on to the forehead and further into the rest of the head.

Caffeine Headache

Duration of withdrawal symptoms

Most people develop withdrawal symptoms within 12 to 24 hours of the last cup of coffee with peak symptoms lasting for about two days and slowly taper off in nine days.

What does Caffeine Headache feel like?

Caffeine Headache is usually moderate to severe in the intensity of pain which is felt on both sides of your head. The headache develops a few hours after you’ve skipped your cup of regular coffee and typically worsen with any sort of exertion.


Severe pain is accompanied by some withdrawal symptoms, such as

  • Irritability
  • Low mood and low energy levels
  • General lethargy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Constipation
  • Tremors (in severe cases)
  • Arrhythmias
  • May develop into Chronic Daily Headache


What causes a Caffeine Headache?

Caffeine generally constricts the blood vessels of your brain. However, once its effects fade off, the blood vessels tend to dilate, boosting blood flow towards the brain and cause a Headache.

What causes withdrawal symptoms?

Caffeine binds with Adenosine receptors in the brain blocking the dopamine which normally binds with the receptors resulting in excessive Dopamine (the feel-good hormone) that is responsible for lifting the mood.

Increased adenosine signals to the adrenal gland cause more release of adrenaline that is responsible for the feeling of alertness.

As the caffeine intake increases the brain increases the number of adenosine receptors. Thus, developing tolerance against the number of caffeine molecules. This means that with time more and more caffeine would be required to create the same amount of alertness.

So when a person skips or decreases the amount of their usual caffeine intake, the amount of Dopamine fails to cope with excess Adenosine receptors. Hence, creating an imbalance between Adrenaline and Dopamine levels and cause withdrawal symptoms.

Normal Caffeine intake

Recommended caffeine intake is 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for an adult. If someone drinks more than 400 mg of coffee in a day, he is most likely to face withdrawal symptoms.


There can be two modes of Management of Caffeine Headache.

  • Medicinal Treatment
  • Home remedies

Medicinal Treatment:

  • Over the counter analgesics: to help with the pain.
  • Over the counter pain killers, containing caffeine: Excedrin. 

Home remedies:

  • Simply getting some rest can relieve the headache.
  • Apply topical peppermint oil.
  • Acupressure and acupuncture are found to ease the tensed muscles.
  • Cold compresses can also relieve tension and pain due to headaches by reducing the inflammation.
  • Drink a lot of fluids to combat dehydration.

Coping with the withdrawal symptoms

Gradually taper off caffeine intake:

A drastic change in caffeine intake can cause damage to the brain and has a major effect on the quality of life of the patient.

Getting enough sleep:

A proper sleeping schedule can also reduce physical dependence on caffeine.

Using other caffeine replacement:

Try replacing a few cups of your coffee with chocolate and caffeine-containing beverages.

Decaffeinated coffee can be used in the beginning to help with tapering off.


Staying hydrated keeps you alert and most of the time you would not have to depend on caffeine to get rid of fatigue.


How much coffee can I have in a day?

On average you can have 400 milligrams of coffee in a day.

What replacements can I have for coffee, while I tapper it off?

You can try replacing a few cups of your coffee with chocolate or some other caffeine-containing beverages. Also, you can try taking decaffeinated coffee a few times.

How long does a Caffeine withdrawal Headache last?

This can develop a few hours after you miss your regular dose of caffeine and might linger on for 2 to 9 days.

How do I distinguish the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine?

The symptoms would start developing a few hours after you miss your regular dose of caffeine and would subside if you take coffee or any other caffeinated product.