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Caffeine: Cup of Pain, Liquid Stress

Caffeine and Pain

I've seen a very strong correlation between caffeine use & pain. Caffeine makes every muscle in your body more tense, including the involuntary muscles in the internal organs. If a massage therapy client stops or starts using caffeine, I can feel a difference in their body: more muscle tension with caffeine. Increased muscle tension leads to pain.

Caffeine & Chronic Pain

Getting off caffeine can reduce your pain, and sometimes eliminates pain. Cutting down from a lot to a little helps. Going from a little to nothing helps even more. Many people are sensitive enough to caffeine that a small amount makes a big difference in their pain and tension. Green tea or chocolate are enough to cause pain for many people. The only way to find out what effect caffeine has on you is to stop using it.

What Has Caffeine?

Coffee, black tea, green tea, chocolate, cola, kombucha, guarana, guayusa, kuding, yaupon and yerba mate all have caffeine. Tea contains caffeine and theophylline. Chocolate contains caffeine, theophylline and theobromine. Cola contains caffeine theophylline and theobromine. These are closely related compounds, called methylxanthine alkaloids. They are toxic addictive drugs.

Decaffeinated coffee and tea contain enough caffeine to cause tension and pain. Decaffeinated coffee can be have almost as much caffeine as regular.
Caffeine Content of Decaffeinated Coffee - Journal of Analytic Toxicology

Caffeine and theophylline are central nervous system stimulants. They create a stress response, and make your muscles tense. Caffeine is in tea, guarana, and yerba mate.

Caffeine is in: chai, kombucha, sodas, sports gels, energy drinks, and OTC pain drugs. Read labels.

Q: How much caffeine do you use? A: Not that much.

When I ask massage therapy clients about their caffeine use, many people say: Not that much. This seems to mean: Less than I assume it would take to cause pain. That's an assumption. Find out what effect caffeine has on your tension and pain. Stop using the drugs for a while.

Caffeine Disrupts Your Sleep

Even if you only have one cup first thing in the morning, your sleep quality that night is diminished. This is shown by EEG (Electro Encephalo Graph) readings in sleep labs. So you wake feeling less refreshed, and grab a cup. Then you get drowsy in the afternoon from lack of quality sleep the night before, and want another cup. It's a vicious cycle. You're addicted.

Caffeine reduces REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). This means less dreams, less chance for your deep mind to do emotional processing.

Caffeine reduces or eliminates the deepest sleep, Stage-4 sleep. This means less recovery from physical stress, less benefit from exercise, and less HGH (Human Growth Hormone) release.

Inability to descend fully into deep sleep is associated with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) and Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS), two painful conditions.

Caffeine Increases Stress Reactions

Caffeine has significant hemodynamic and humoral effects in habitual coffee drinkers that persist for many hours during the activities of everyday life. Furthermore, caffeine may exaggerate sympathetic adrenal-medullary responses to the stressful events of normal daily life. Repeated daily blood pressure elevations and increases in stress reactivity caused by caffeine consumption could contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease in the adult population.
Caffeine Affects Cardiovascular and Neuroendocrine Activation at Work and Home - Psychosomatic Medicine

The effects of coffee drinking are long-lasting and exaggerate the stress response both in terms of the body's physiological response in blood pressure elevations and stress hormone levels, but it also magnifies a person's perception of stress
Caffeine's Effects are Long-Lasting and Compound Stress - Duke Health

Caffeine and psychologic stress have similar physiologic effects. Moderate doses of caffeine were found to elevate blood pressure in healthy, young males during periods of rest and stress. Blood pressure during stress was also significantly higher after caffeine had been consumed. The elevation of blood pressure due to caffeine appears to add to that elicited by stress.
Caffeine and cardiovascular responses to stress - Psychosomatic Medicine

Caffeine & Emotional Tension

People who have quit caffeine tell me they have less anxiety, less anger, and feel less stressed. It may take a month or two for this to happen.

Caffeine may produce symptoms essentially indistinguishable from anxiety neurosis. Patients with symptoms of nervousness, irritability, headache, lethargy, insomnia, irregular heart rates, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may be treated for anxiety neurosis when the problem could be resolved by restricting caffeine intake.
Journal of the American Medical Association 229(12)1563-1564, September 16, 1974

Caffeine is Toxic

Your liver has to detoxify caffeine. That uses resources that your liver could be using to detoxify all the other toxic substances you're exposed to. A single dose of caffeine takes more than 24 hours to be eliminated from your body. Caffeine's half-life is said to be 3-7 hours; in that time, you will have detoxified and eliminated only half of the caffeine.
Why do plants produce caffeine? Because it's toxic. Caffeine poisons the plant's predators.
Pure crystalline caffeine has killed people.

Women, Caffeine & Pain

Caffeine use is associated with higher incidence of PMS and FBD (fibrocystic breast disease), two painful conditions. Studies in which women have stayed off coffee for 6 months or more show improvement of FBD. When women have abstained from caffeine for shorter times, they haven't gotten relief, leading to claims that FBD isn't affected by caffeine. FBD is associated with PMS and anxiety; conditions that can be caused by caffeine.

Caffeine restriction as initial treatment for breast pain. PubMed
Cyclical mastalgia (breast pain) and caffeine. PubMed
High caffeine use, benign breast disease; may lead to breast cancer.

Caffeine-containing beverages, total fluid consumption, and premenstrual syndrome. Analysis of the data revealed that consumption of caffeine-containing beverages was strongly related to the prevalence of premenstrual syndrome.
Tea and premenstrual syndrome in the People's Republic of China. Analysis of the data revealed that tea consumption is strongly related to the prevalence of premenstrual syndrome and that the effects are dose-dependent.

Caffeine causes calcium loss; it increases your risk of osteoporosis. Broken bones are very painful.

Chocolate & Pain

Chocolate is a stronger pain-inducer than coffee or tea. Chocolate causes dramatic increases in muscle tension and pain. Chocolate contains less caffeine than coffee, but has large amounts of theophylline, similar to caffeine. The combined effect of caffeine and theophylline is probably why chocolate makes muscles tense and painful.

Child Slavery, Chocolate, & Coffee

Most chocolate, and some coffee, is grown in Ivory Coast (West Africa), using child slavery. Chocolate and coffee cause severe pain for slaves: they are beaten routinely.

Caffeine Withdrawal & Recovery

Caffeine fading means cutting down caffeine intake gradually, to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Mix your usual brew with a coffee substitute if you like. Withdrawal may take a week or two. Quitting all at once works better for some people; throw all the caffeine in the compost, there's no more temptation.

Recovery starts after full withdrawal, and takes a month or two. That's when people tell me they feel different; more alert on waking, no energy crash in the afternoon, calmer, clearer, less angry, less anxious. Stay with it.

Tobacco and Caffeine

Tobacco makes smokers half as sensitive to caffeine as they would be otherwise. Smoking seems calming, since it lessens the stimulating effect of caffeine. If you quit smoking, the same amount of coffee will affect you twice as much as it usually does. Quitting smoking becomes extra difficult; you're suddenly extra wired from the doubled caffeine buzz, on top of the tobacco withdrawal. Then you find yourself wanting a smoke to calm your nerves.
Solution: To make quitting smoking easier, cut your coffee consumption in half at the same time.
Caffeine may increase the desire for nicotine.

Antioxidants in Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate

You may have heard that these plants are sources of antioxidants. That's because they're plants. All plants contain antioxidants. Plants wouldn't survive their encounters with oxygen and sunlight if they didn't create antioxidants. Many common food plants contain powerful antioxidants, without any caffeine. If you want lots of antioxidants, eat a plant-based diet.

Alternatives to Caffeine

Rooibos tea (red bush) from South Africa tastes like black tea. Rooibos is high in polyphenols, antioxidants similar to those found in green tea and black tea.
Peppermint Tea is high in antioxidants and anticancer substances. Peppermint may help keep you awake. Researchers put people in a darkened room, and monitored their eyes to detect signs of drowsiness. Peppermint oil decreased the tendency to became drowsy. PubMed
Beverages made from roasted grains, roots, etc mimic coffee's taste and aroma.
DandyBlend is made from roasted dandelion root.

Carob tastes sweet, is used instead of chocolate, contains no caffeine or theophylline.

Take a nap break instead of a coffee break.
NASA Naps Power Nap Prevents Burnout; Morning Sleep Perfects a Skill
How to Nap

Get more sleep, feel more energized.

Resources for Quitting Caffeine

See Also

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