Tuesday, 25 September 2012

IMFW: Headache? Painkiller!

If television advertising has taught me one thing over the past few years, it's that headaches are evil red pulsating blobs inside your head, and that if you have one, you can cure it with NUROFEN and that NUROFEN will heal all your achy ills and NUROFEN PLUS is there for when you have an exceptional amount of pain that needs to be killed, because humans are WEAK and liable to developing red pulsating headblobs at any moment.

I think that advert was for Nurofen, anyway...

If actual real life has taught me anything, it's that you should go to the doctor if you have headaches regularly, and also that being allergic to paracetamol is annoying if you're then put on medication which means you can't take aspirin or ibuprofen.

If the BBC has taught me anything this week, it's that painkillers can actually cause headaches, which I had no idea about. We all know you should be careful not to OD on paracetamol (but did you know that paracetamol is actually the commonest drug overdose in the UK, and accounts for a massive 48% of all poisoning admissions to hospital?), yet in fact even at non-toxic doses painkillers can cause what are known as medication overuse headaches. NICE has recently issued new guidance to health professionals in England and Wales on the subject.

If headaches get worse after a couple of months of regular use of painkillers, it's possible that they have developed into medication overuse headaches, and unfortunately the only cure is to go cold turkey and see if they improve - but at first they'll get worse. Also known as rebound headaches, they can be a serious problem, often occurring in people who already suffer from migraine or other chronic headache conditions, and who may have no idea that they're taking painkillers too frequently.

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