While many headaches can be treated easily without consulting a healthcare provider, other headaches that occur more often and are more severe may require medical attention. Treatment options can include over-the-counter medication, prescription medication, and preventative medication. Lifestyle changes (such as maintaining good sleep habits and avoiding alcohol and nicotine) can also be helpful when treating headaches.
An Overview of Headache Treatment Options
(Click Headache Relief to learn about treatment options that are available for these types of headaches.)
In other cases, headaches occur more often or are more severe and can require a trip to a healthcare provider. In these cases, before recommending a headache treatment, the healthcare provider will consider a number of factors, including:
- The cause of the headaches (see Causes of Headaches)
- The frequency and severity of the headaches
- Other treatments that have been tried in the past for relief
- Your individual needs.
This article will focus on treatment options for three types of chronic headaches -- tension headaches, migraine headaches, and cluster headaches.
Treating Tension Headaches
Tension-type headaches (also known as tension headaches) are the most common type of headache. They can be brought on by stressful events, and they are characterized by mild-to-moderate pain that feels like pressure is being applied to the head or neck. More than 90 percent of headaches are believed to be tension-type.
There are many different treatment options for tension headaches. Most people with infrequent tension headaches do fine with over-the-counter medications. These medications can include:
- Aspirin (Ecotrin®, Bayer®, Anacin®)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®), naproxen sodium (Aleve®), or ketoprofen.
Other people may need stronger medications. For those who frequently have tension headaches (chronic tension headaches), preventive treatment is recommended.
(Click Treatment for Tension Headaches to learn more about specific treatment options, including other medications that may be recommended.)