Acute Relief for Mild-to-Moderate HeadachesPeople who get occasional mild-to-moderate headaches may benefit by taking certain medicines as soon as the pain begins. Your healthcare provider can recommend one of several medications. Some are available over the counter; others require a prescription.
Some over-the-counter headache medicines include:
- Aspirin (Ecotrin®, Bayer®, Anacin®)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®), naproxen sodium (Aleve®), and ketoprofen.
If these medicines are not effective, your healthcare provider may recommend several other over-the-counter medicines. 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®).
Some people may need stronger pain medicines that are available only by prescription. These can include other NSAIDs, such as:
- Celecoxib (Celebrex®)
- Diclofenac (Cataflam®, Voltaren®)
- Etodolac (Lodine®, Lodine® XL)
- Flurbiprofen (Ansaid®)
- Indomethacin (Indocin®, Indocin SR®)
- Meclofenamate (Meclomen®)
- Meloxicam (Mobic®)
- Nabumetone (Relafen®)
- Naproxen (Naprosyn®) or naproxen sodium (Anaprox®, Naprelan®)
- Oxaprozin (Daypro®)
- Piroxicam (Feldene®).
Keep in mind that just because one NSAID does not work, it does not mean that all of them will not work.
People with infrequent headaches may benefit from taking a hot shower, applying moist heat to the back of the neck, using cold packs on the back of the head, or pressing on the bulging artery found in front of the ear on the painful side of the head. Stress management techniques, such as relaxation and massage, can also help limit pain.