14:20 19 September 2012
In a report for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), doctors have warned that taking too many painkillers actually results in more headaches.
Prof Martin Underwood from Warwick Medical School said that millions of Britons are suffering from severe headaches that were "completely preventable".
Those who take common painkillers on a regular basis are making their headaches worse because their brains become immune to the drugs' effects.
NICE is launching new guidance this week which urges sufferers to try treatments that help prevent headaches in the first place such as acupuncture.
While the majority of the UK suffers from occasional mild and moderate headaches, roughly a fifth of the adult population (10 million) are plagued by the more seriously debilitating kind according to figures published in The Telegraph.
Seven million are prone to migranes while between 50,000 and 100,000 have terrible 'cluster' headaches that arrive and depart without warning.
But the focus has been drawn on the million who have 'medication overuse headaches' due to an overreliance on drugs.
Dr Manjit Matharu, a consultant neurologist who helped develop the Nice guidelines, said: “Patients with frequent tension-type headaches or migraines can get themselves into a vicious cycle, where their headaches are getting increasingly worse.”
Matharu claims that taking regular dose aspirin, paracetamol or anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen for 15 days or more a month could actually lead to these headaches. Even those who took less than the maximum recommended dose could fall victim, although lower doses taken frequently have been linked with protecting against heart disease and cancer and would not trigger the headaches.
However, the solution could be a hard sale for patients who would effectively have to go 'cold turkey' making their headaches worse temporarily while they 'come off' the drug.
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