Medication overuse headache is a type of headache that develops and gets worse with frequent use of any medication treatment for pain in people who have tension-type headache or migraine.
According to an article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), medication overuse headache is a common disorder, affecting one to two percent of the population.
It is also difficult to treat, notes the article.
In light of these facts, “prescribing long-term paracetamol to patients with co-existent headache disorders needs to be considered carefully and should be avoided in the treatment of headache disorders,” the BMJ article states.
It is worth noting that only people who are prone to headaches develop this syndrome, generally those with migraine or a family history of migraine.
“It is generally not seen in people taking painkillers for reasons other than headaches, such as arthritis or back pain,” explains The Migraine Trust.
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Is it safe to take paracetamol with other painkillers?
According to the NHS, it’s safe to take paracetamol with other types of painkiller that don’t contain paracetamol, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and codeine.
“Do not take paracetamol alongside other medicines that contain paracetamol,” warns the health body.
If you take two different medicines that contain paracetamol, there’s a risk of overdose, it explains.
“Before taking any other medicines, check the label to see whether they contain paracetamol.”
How do painkillers work?
Different painkillers work in different ways.
“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin work by changing the way your body responds to pain and swelling,” explains Bupa.
According to the health body, mild opiate painkillers such as codeine work by blocking pain messages in your brain and spinal cord.
“Doctors aren’t sure exactly how paracetamol works, but it’s thought that it may block pain signals to your brain.”
Alternative ways to alleviate pain
There a range of methods for alleviating chronic pain that do not involve taking medication.
“Staying physically active, despite some pain, can play a helpful role for people with some of the more common pain conditions, including low back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia,” explains Harvard Health.
Losing weight can also aid pain relief.
Harvard Health explains: “Many painful health conditions are worsened by excess weight.”