Staring at your pack of cigarettes, with a migraine threatening to ruin your entire day, you are wondering whether the two are related or not. Maybe you’ve smoked too much in a day. Maybe you didn’t smoke at all and you are going through withdrawal. You want to light another cigarette, but when you do, you feel like your head is going to pop.
Are these nicotine headaches? Or are they related in any way to your smoking habits? Does your head hurt all the time because you are smoking? Is there anything that you can do about it? Well, this article should help you cover the basics.
Nicotine and Headaches
There has always been a great debate between nicotine and headaches. Some say that nicotine causes headaches. Others say that nicotine has nothing to do with headaches. Some believe that it causes headaches – but only when you are going through withdrawal. The truth is somewhere in the middle – but at the same time, it depends on every person in particular.
Nicotine is something that we call a “vasoactive substance.” This means that it has the ability to change the blood vessel sizes in your brain – therefore, possibly causing a headache. Smoke coming from cigarettes can also trigger headaches by irritating your throat, nose, or causing an allergic reaction.
What Causes Headaches?
Headaches can be caused by a variety of things. Sometimes, they might be genetic – in which case, they can be slightly more complicated to handle. However, in most cases, they are caused by the chemical activity in your brain, which affects the blood vessels in your head. When the blood flow to your brain is affected, you begin experiencing the symptoms of a headache. This can be primary, as well as secondary, depending on the cause.
Primary headaches are the ones that seem to appear out of nowhere, and in which case, the root of the problem is all in your head – literally. These headaches aren’t triggered by any external factor, such as a secondary headache. Secondary headaches are typically a symptom of something else – often triggered by allergies, sinus problems, addiction, withdrawal, and so on.
How to Overcome Nicotine Headaches:
There is one surefire way to overcome a nicotine headache: stop smoking and stay away from smokers. That being said, nicotine withdrawal can also be the cause of a headache, depending on how your body processes the nicotine. Once the nicotine gets out of your system, you should be headache-free – but until that happens, you will have to find other ways to calm your headache down.
Over-the-counter painkillers should help in this regard, as they will deal with the symptoms at the moment. Once you are over with your withdrawal, you should no longer be experiencing any symptoms – but only as long as you don’t start smoking again. If you can’t cut on smoking altogether, then you might try to slowly cut back at least.
Aromatherapy has also been said to soothe a headache. The same goes for cold compresses since they reduce inflammation. Exercise or yoga can also improve the blood flow to your brain, so you might want to consider getting yourself on the move. In very rare cases medical detox is necessary.
Other Drugs That Cause Headaches:
Many drugs can cause a headache once you step into the lands of addiction. For example, alcohol and caffeine should not trigger headaches if you drink, say, one cup a day. However, if you drink enough to affect the blood flow to your brain, then you might find yourself with a pounding headache – particularly when the substance begins exiting your system.
And while this may not be something that you want to hear, drugs used to treat headaches can also cause a headache. This is often referred to as a “rebound headache,” and it appears once you’ve used a certain painkiller (i.e., aspirin, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, etc.) more than several times a week. Basically, these drugs will lower your headache at the moment, but since your body will already be used to the drug, the withdrawal from it will cause yet another headache. It’s a vicious cycle that won’t leave your head alone.
When To See A Doctor
In most cases, headaches should go away within 48 hours – even faster, if you manage the pain with O.T.C. painkillers. Still, if your headache goes beyond the timeframe and increases in intensity as well, then you might want to consider receiving assistance from your physician.
In most cases, when you feel like your headaches are beginning to cramp your lifestyle, you should certainly go see a doctor. Having a headache now and again is no big problem; we all get them. It becomes an issue when they are frequent enough to cause you problems. Moreover, if a headache does not stop, it might be a sign of an underlying condition.
How Do I Know If The Headaches Are Serious?
To know whether your headaches are serious or not, you can’t only rely on their intensity (although that is indeed a factor). You need to look at their occurrences. For example, determine if you are getting a headache more than 15 days throughout the month. Next, see if those episodes occurred, in the same manner, every month, throughout the past three months. In that case, you might have chronic headaches that suggest an underlying condition.
Getting Help For Nicotine Headaches
Sometimes, simply waiting for your headache to pass might not be the most comfortable idea – in which case you need help. You can go to see your doctor, but in many situations, you can also find help at the local pharmacy. Replacement therapy (gum, nicotine patches) might help, as well as activities to increase the blood flow to the brain. Many professionals may be able to offer help in that matter.
Best Way to Deal With The Nicotine Addiction
When dealing with nicotine addiction, there are several things you can do. First things first, you need to find your reason; it’s much easier to quit when you have the motivation for it. Plus, for some people, it is more difficult to hang onto the motivation when they are surrounded by temptation – so, you should avoid places where you expect smoking.
Quitting smoking is more than just tossing all of your cigarettes out – especially if you have an addiction. If you quit entirely from the very beginning, while worthy of applause, your body will not like it. The best way to quit smoking is to consistently cut from your daily doses until you can no longer feel the withdrawal. Reaching out for help, finding a support group, and getting connected with a therapist can also drastically increase your chances of quitting nicotine.
Help For Nicotine Addiction
Once you see the signs of nicotine addiction, then you might want to consider getting help. Some people manage to quit smoking based on sheer willpower. However, others give nicotine up temporarily, only to pick it up after a week/a month/etc. In this case, even if they quit, this does not mean the addiction was dealt with – mainly because they have not addressed the underlying problem.
If you feel that you have issues dealing with your nicotine addiction by yourself, then you might want to consider asking for assistance. Nicotine patches can help, but professionals can help you handle your addiction – making it much easier for you to quit. Once you get to the root of your addiction, you should be able to get rid of your nicotine headaches.