Caffeine for migraine relief may seem like a double-edged sword, and for some it is. Caffeine can do one of two things: Bring on a migraine, or dull a migraine. Some who suffer from severe migraine pain are trying caffeine, and for some it helps in easing their symptoms. But for others, a few drinks of a soda can make their headache pain worse. So, what gives? Why does caffeine work for some, but not for others?

Excedrin Migraine – the most popular OTC migraine reliever – contains caffeine to help kick migraine pain. This can also help alertness, but for those with caffeine sensitivities it can make their pain worse. Caffeine itself does not actually cause a headache, but it can cause a “caffeine rebound” to many, which occurs when caffeine exits your system. This is a severe withdrawal reaction, and while few have this reaction, it can seem like it is actually the caffeine that is causing the headache.

For a headache, be it a tension headache, sinus headache, or migraine headache, to occur, blood vessels must enlarge. Aspirin and acetaminophen, both are in Excederin Migraine, help shrink blood vessels, thus helping dull out the migraine. Studies have found that when caffeine is added in with aspirin and acetaminophen pain is further lessened.

A safe caffeine level is also important for those with and without a headache. Just because caffeine has been found to help get rid of a migraine doesn’t mean that you should consume every caffeinated beverage and chocolate bar in sight. The average American consumes around 200-300 milligrams of caffeine daily, which is enough to help dull out migraine pain. That is the equivalent of two or three cups of coffee.

For those in need of a quick caffeine fix, some beverages are better than others. Many sodas, such as orange soda, grape soda, and Sprite have no caffeine. Most hot teas have zero or little caffeine. The best bet is a cup of coffee for a hot drink, with an average of 100 milligrams of caffeine per cup. For a soda, Mr. Pibb has an average of 56 milligrams of caffeine per cup, and Mountain Dew has 54 milligrams per cup. Energy drinks are used by many, but you should be cautious if you take medications or have heart issues, as most energy drinks have herbal ingredients that can cause heart palpitations and drug interactions. Sobe NoFear ranks at the top of the energy drink list, with a whopping 280 milligrams of caffeine per cup.

So, caffeine is good for a headache, right? Well, it is good for helping kick a headache already in progress. Caffeine will not keep a headache away, and a wonky caffeine habit can make your chances of getting a headache even worse. If you are used to drinking three cups of coffee per day, and stop drinking it cold turkey, you may end up with a withdrawal headache. The same thing can happen if you are used to drinking caffeinated soda. While some of us must stop quickly and cold turkey for medications or a newly diagnosed medical condition, it is best to slowly taper caffeine in order to avoid withdrawal issues.