In most cases, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines will provide sufficient headache relief. However, if your headaches occur more frequently or are more severe, you may need prescription drugs that can either ease the pain once a headache begins or prevent headaches from occurring in the first place.
An Overview of Headache MedicinesThere are many medicines available to treat headaches. The choice about which medicine makes the most sense in your situation will be based on several factors, including:
- The cause of the headaches
- The severity of the headaches
- The frequency of the headaches.
For most headaches, over-the-counter medicines will successfully provide relief. However, for people with headaches that occur more frequently or that are more severe, prescription medication may be needed. Prescription medicine may also be needed for certain types of chronic headaches, such as migraine headaches or cluster headaches.
Over-the-Counter Medicines Used for HeadachesPeople who get occasional, mild-to-moderate headaches may benefit from taking certain medicines as soon as the headache pain begins. Your healthcare provider can recommend one of several medications. Some of the over-the-counter products include:
- Aspirin (Ecotrin®, Bayer®, Anacin®)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®), naproxen sodium (Aleve®), or ketoprofen.
If these medicines are not effective, your healthcare provider may recommend other over-the-counter drugs. These medicines are a combination of several medications and can include:
- Aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine (Excedrin® Extra Strength, Excedrin® Migraine)
- Isometheptene mucate, chloralphenazone, and acetaminophen (Midrin®, Migratine®).