PEOPLE who regularly take common painkillers such as aspirin or paracetamol could be causing themselves more pain than relief.
Overuse of such medication can contribute to headaches for people who take such medicines for more than 10 days in a month over three months.
And it is estimated that one in 50 people who experience headaches suffer because of medication overuse.
The claims were made by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in Britain.
It said common over-the-counter treatments were effective for easing the pain of occasional headaches but using them for tension-type headaches or migraine could reduce their effectiveness and cause further pain. People who suffered from such headaches could be in a vicious cycle where their headaches were getting worse because of medication overuse and to alleviate symptoms they took more drugs.
Issuing new guidance to healthcare professionals, the institute said different headaches required different treatments and so a correct diagnosis was vital.
Martin Underwood, a GP and professor of primary care research at Warwick Medical School who chaired the guideline's development, said: "We have effective treatments for common headache types.
"However, taking these medicines for more than 10 or 15 days a month can cause medication overuse headache, which is a disabling and preventable disorder.
"Patients with frequent tension-type headaches or migraines can get themselves into a vicious cycle, where their headaches are getting increasingly worse, so they take more medication, which makes their pain even worse as they take more medication.
"I hope this guideline will improve awareness of medication overuse headaches because prevention is simple and treatment is difficult."
Dr Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of the institute, added: "Although headache is the most common neurological problem seen by GPs and neurologists, many people are not receiving correct or timely diagnoses.
"The key features of medication overuse and the symptoms that distinguish the types of primary headache can be overlooked and concerns from patients about possible underlying causes can lead to unnecessary hospital investigations."