Tension headaches: Can diet soda trigger one?

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Tension headaches are considered as one of the common types of headache that is described as pain linked with a feeling of muscle tightness in the scalp, neck or head. Some individuals only suffer from this type of headache intermittently while some develop chronic and regular symptoms. Diet and non-diet sodas that contain caffeine can potentially instigate the start of a tension headache.

Close look on tension headaches

Many individuals have experienced some form of tension headache at some point. The usual symptoms of this type of headache include the following:

  • Evident contraction or tightening of the neck and scalp muscles
  • Pain or discomfort that starts at the back of the head and gradually moves forward across the head and scalp

Depending on the conditions, the soreness or pain due to a tension headache can develop as a squeeze-like sensation or a feeling of dull pressure. Aside from the pain in the upper region of the head, it can also manifest in the jaw, shoulders and neck.

Tension headache
Many individuals have experienced some form of tension headache at some point.

Link between caffeine and tension headache

Caffeine is a described as a bitter tasting substance present in the leaves or seeds of various plants including those that provide the basic materials for different forms of coffee, chocolate and tea.

Food manufacturers can also create the chemical artificially. The natural and artificial forms of caffeine are common ingredients in both diet and non-diet sodas. The consumption of any caffeine source can potentially instigate the start of a tension headache.

Caffeine and relief for headaches

Even though caffeine has the potential to instigate a tension headache, it is also a common ingredient in various non-prescription and prescription medications designed to manage headaches or other sources of pain.

With this in mind, caffeine serves as a beneficial factor by increasing the efficiency and speed of the “pain-killing” effect of these medications. Nevertheless, if the individual uses a caffeine-based headache medication along with caffeine-containing non-diet or diet sodas, it increases the risk for triggering a rebound headache which occurs once headache remedies are overused. Using a caffeine-free headache product along with a caffeinated beverage can also instigate a rebound headache.

Additional diet soda considerations

Non-caffeinated diet and non-diet sodas are not precisely considered as initiators for tension headaches. On the other hand, the caffeine-free as well as decaffeinated beverages are known to frequently include some caffeine.

Even though the sweeteners and additional chemicals present in diet soda are generally safe, consumption of more than one regular or diet soda in a day can increase the risk for becoming obese and developing an obesity-linked disorder such as type 2 diabetes. Healthy alternatives to diet soda include fruit juice, water and skim milk. A doctor should be consulted for more information on this type of headache and the possible effects of diet soda consumption.

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