Eli5 how does caffeine help relieve migraine/headaches?


Eli5 how does caffeine help relieve migraine/headaches?

In: Biology

I don’t think it does, in combination with common drugs against headaches it can make them work “faster”.

Otherwise we are probably talking about someone getting headaches because of caffeine addiction, and then getting caffeine relieves this headache.

Migraines (and headaches in general) can include vasodilation in the brain (the blood vessels throughout the brain expand) which is thought to create pressure on the organ itself, which can be painful. As a vasoconstrictor (causes blood vessels to narrow), caffeine helps mitigate this. The extent to which this helps is… variable, but for some people it seems to provide some subjective pain relief.

The pain involved in migraines is caused by blood vessels that run through your skull behind your eye dilating. There isn’t much space inside of the actual skull bone, so when these vessels dilate they increase the amount of pressure inside of the bone itself. That increase in pressure is painful.

Normal headaches are caused by a similar process – blood vessels throughout your skull dilate a bit which increases pressure within the bone, which causes pain.

Caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict. This causes the blood vessels inside of your skull bone to return to their normal size, lowering the pressure inside of the bone, and stopping the pain.

The exact mechanism that causes migraines is not known but what is known is many of the symptoms and pain are caused by vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels in the brain.

This increase of blood flow is what causes the visual and auditory auras and sensitivity associated with migraines. Essentially your brain is working overtime.

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, it shrinks your arteries and reduces blood flow. It’s not nearly as powerful as the prescription medication you can get for Migraines, but it works faster.

So consuming caffeine can help take the edge off a headache and migraine, and lessen the impact until another medication can kick in.

The counter argument is that caffeine is addictive, and caffeine withdrawal can trigger headaches in the first place.

Caffeine is addictive. If you have a migraine and drinking coffee alleviates it, you don’t have a migraine, you have caffeine withdrawal.