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Arthritis Drugs Can Trigger Headaches

Q. I get terrible rebound headaches from anti-inflammatory drugs (both prescription and OTC). My doctors seem to not believe me; instead, they insist that anti-inflammatories are just what I need for arthritis. Have you heard of this and do you know of any anti-inflammatories that don’t cause headaches when you stop taking them?

A. Joel Saper, MD, is director of The Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute and past president of the American Association for the Study of Headache. He has long been concerned about rebound headaches resulting from overuse of pain relievers, including anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Aleve or Motrin IB.

If such medications are used more frequently than once or twice a week, they can sensitize brain receptors excessively. Then, as the medicine wears off, the headache recurs. If you have worsening headaches with more frequent drug use, you should suspect this type of vicious circle.

You might consider topical medicine such as Voltaren Gel or non-drug approaches for your arthritis pain such as boswellia, fish oil, ginger or turmeric. We are sending you our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis with information about home remedies and supplements that you may find helpful.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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