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Quitting Smoking is a Real Headache.

Ex smoker suffering a headacheIt is not unusual for people to experience headaches when they first quit smoking. It is possible, that the headaches experienced during nicotine withdrawal, are the result of fluctuating serotonin levels.


 
When you quit smoking your brain and nervous system suffer physical stresses due to changes in the production of various chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Both are modified by smoking and addiction to nicotine.

When you quit smoking, serotonin levels will drop and it has been found that reduced serotonin levels can lead to migraines.

The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) plays a role in the development of migraine attacks. This conclusion is supported by evidence indicating that migraine patients tend to have low levels of serotonin in their brains (Panconesi 2008). Additional support for this theory is found in data indicating that tricyclic antidepressants, which increase serotonin signaling, reduce the frequency of migraine attacks (Cutrer 2012). - www.lef.org/

Of course, additional factors may also play a role in causing headaches during a quit smoking campaign.

Below are a few example causes;

  • Excessive Caffeine and Caffeine withdrawal.
  • Fatigue, another common nicotine withdrawal symptom.
  • Changes in climate and weather.
  • Menstruation.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Dehydration.

 

Tips for Managing the Headaches That Come With Quitting Smoking.

 

  • If the headaches are extreme or do not go away, seek medical advice.
  • Use painkillers such as Aspirin and Paracetamol as directed.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Consider switching coffee for teas that contain significantly less caffeine. Herbal teas that are caffeine free would be even better.
  • Ensure you are drinking enough water.
  • Eat good food with plenty of nutrients.

 

Comments

  1. It could be the extra oxygen too as the carbon monoxide leaves. I have a headache now and am dizzy sometimes. I was concerned about this until I read your article. Now I see it as a natural result of stopping smoking yesterday.

    I didn’t quit because of health reasons. I quit because I want to be free of the shackles of dependency on something that was never satisfying me but was only partially removing the chronic inter-cigarette withdrawal symptoms.

    Non-smokers feel free of these symptoms 24/7 and I want to be just like that.

    Free.

    • “shackles of dependency ”

      So true :)

      Headaches are definitely part of the healing process, so yeah, I wouldn’t be overly concerned. Though, to play it safe, I’d always advocate letting your doctor know, especially if they continue or cause you distress etc.

      Thanks for the input btw :)

  2. I quit smoking with chantix, worked great for me. 3 weeks after I quit I got 24 hour a day headaches that have been going on for 4 months now, have had catscans and many Dr. visits with no relieve, I am ready to start smoking again life was alot more fun. I have been told Rebound Headache was the problem so I stopped all pain killers 3 weeks ago, they have gotten slightly better, do not know what to do…

  3. Hi Gary, well done on making 4 months!

    Rebound headache could well be the cause. Headache is also reportedly a side effect of champix/chantix.

    I would also consider talking to your doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy. Addiction seriously messes up the brain’s “wiring” and can cause all sorts of physical and psychological problems. I used to get headaches from just thinking about my quit…over thinking it!

    Quitting smoking is certainly not fun and in the middle of the healing process, it is easy to understand why life before quitting seemed so much better.

    However, 4 months is still a young quit, I would give it more time. There will be ups and downs for a few months yet, with the up days becoming more frequent and the down days less severe.

    I also recommend joining an online support group if you haven’t already. If you have facebook, I’d consider starting here…
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Quit-Smoking/22779544982

    Hope it begins getting better for you soon! :)

  4. although I would question replacing tea for coffee – tea can contain as much caffeine as coffee. Switch for something else

  5. Hi I am on my 7th day today but I seem to feel dizzy since I stopped im just using the smoking loz at the moment apart from the dizzy spells and alittle tired im ok

  6. I’ve been trying to quit smoking and the last time I smoked was 2 cigarettes 5 days ago. I was also coming down with a cold that exact night. I FEEL AWFUL. I have had such a headache the past couple days, I feel like my head is a balloon about to pop with too much air in it. I am sort of getting over my cold– which was terrible— but the headache isn’t going away. I’ve been taking Tylenol Severe Cold and Sinus but it doesn’t even seem to be helping and thats why I think maybe it’s cigarette related.

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