Treatment for Tension Headaches
Episodic Tension Headache Relief
Episodic tension headaches are those that occur less than 15 days per month. For an episodic tension headache not associated with a disease, your healthcare provider will often recommend over-the-counter pain medications, such as:
- Aspirin (Ecotrin®, Bayer®, Anacin®)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®), or
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®), naproxen sodium (Aleve®), or ketoprofen.
These medicines should be taken at the first symptom of a tension headache. They can provide quick relief of tension headaches.
If these medicines are not effective, your healthcare provider may recommend several other over-the-counter medicines. These medicines combine several medicines into one and include:
- Aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine (Excedrin® Extra Strength, Excedrin® Migraine)
- Isometheptene mucate, chloralphenazone, and acetaminophen (Midrin®, Migratine®).
For some people, stronger pain medicines by prescription may be needed. This includes 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 tension headaches may benefit from a hot shower or moist heat applied to the back of the neck. Cervical collars are sometimes recommended as an aid to good posture.