Smoking is an injurious habit. It not only takes a toll on your mental and physical wellness but also negatively affects oral health as well. The adverse effects of smoking go beyond the risk of cancer or heart disease. In a surprising turn of events, your constant throbbing headache might be due to this. If you are wondering how and why smoking causes headaches – your answer is nicotine.

Is Nicotine Behind Throbbing Head Pain?

Yes. Nicotine largely makes up the content of a cigarette and is the primary reason why smoking can lead to headaches. This chemical is a part of many tobacco products other than cigarettes, such as cigars and pipes. What nicotine does is it causes the blood vessels to constrict, limiting blood flow to the brain, consequently triggering migraine headaches. This reduced blood flow causes pain, either in the face or back of the head, known as cluster headaches.
In addition to that, nicotine also stimulates pain-sensing nerves, ultimately increasing the chances of suffering an episode of a headache. Furthermore; expect it to also interfere with headache medications, making it harder for the body to break them down and reducing their effectiveness.

Quitting Smoking and Withdrawal Symptoms

It is quite ironic that smoking triggers headaches, and quitting this habit also contributes to pain; and the culprit is none other than nicotine and its withdrawal.
The use of tobacco regularly and long-term changes in the brain’s chemical messengers over time. When you quit, it disrupts the influx of this chemical balance, leading to various physical and psychological side effects, including headaches.
Withdrawal symptoms typically start to go off within the first 24 hours of not taking a puff and may peak around the third day. However, pain medications in this span become more effective as nicotine levels rapidly drop after the last use of any tobacco-based product.

Managing Post-Quitting Headaches

Dr. Rajesh Maheshwari, MD, has multiple strategies for post-quitting headaches. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is one such method involving the gradual reduction of nicotine intake. This is done with the help of patches, gum, tablets, inhalators, or mouth sprays. These NRT methods contain lower nicotine amounts, easing withdrawal symptoms.
However, if you want to quit cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe. Medications such as Bupropion and Varenicline can help manage symptoms by minimizing nicotine cravings and blocking the rewarding effects associated with smoking.

Relieving Nicotine-Induced Head Pain

Here are some of the strategies that can help you alleviate pain.

  1. Over-the-counter (OTC) Pain Medication: medicinal painkillers such as Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen work exceptionally well, but you must remember that nicotine use can make these medications less effective.
  2. Cold Therapy: Having an ice pack on your forehead alleviates headaches.
  3. Stay Adequately Hydrated: Keeping your body’s water levels in check is crucial to reduce head pains.
  4. Relaxation Techniques: If nothing else works out, rest in a quiet area. Furthermore, you can also explore relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises to manage this issue.
  5. Prescription Medications: There are times when conditions like cluster headaches or migraines just do not get better with OTC options; in that situation, consult your doctor for prescription medications.

Closing Note

Knowing more about the link between smoking, nicotine, and headaches can help you a great deal while addressing this health concern. Whether this has led you to contemplate quitting smoking or you want to learn more information about managing post-quitting pain, contact San Ramon Urgent Care to find ways we can help you. Find us on the map at 9140 Alcosta Blvd Ste D, San Ramon, CA 94583. Call (925) 361-5959 (San Ramon), (209) 825-5155 (Manteca), or (209) 983-9000 (Lathrop) for more information.

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