ZocdocAnswersWhy does caffeine make me feel better?

Question

Why does caffeine make me feel better?

I've had some chronic pain in my arm and shoulder for around a year. Lately I've found if I drink a lot of coffee or energy drinks with caffeine, the pain gets a lot better and I almost forget about it. Why does the caffeine make me feel better?

Answer

Caffeine is a rather potent stimulant, explaining why so many people need their morning cup of coffee to get going for the day. In your case, it sounds as though the caffeine may be increasing your activity level or giving you that caffeine "buzz" which then distracts you from focusing on or noticing the chronic pain you have been experiencing. Caffeine itself is not a pain medicine, but since it does have such powerful effects on your overall level of awareness, it can certainly influence how you perceive your pain. It sounds as though the bigger issue, however, is your chronic arm and shoulder pain. The best thing to do with any chronic symptom that doesn't go away and is clearly affecting your quality of life is to see your physician for a thorough history and exam. You may well benefit from physical therapy or other interventions to help treat the source of your pain. In addition, depending upon what you and your physician discuss, there may well be other more effective medications to help manage pain. Although caffeine is not a regulated medication, its overuse can lead to significant disruption of your sleep-wake cycle which can in turn have negative effects on the rest of your health. Seeing your physician to evaluate the arm pain will help diagnose/manage that properly and allow you to not have to resort to excess caffeine intake to function.

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