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About the medical recommendations on these pages: Some of the medications listed are prescription drugs (requiring a doctor's prescription).

The Complete Headache Treatment Page! complete backacke treatment

Headache (migraine, tension, sinus, vascular, muscular or other cause) is a common reason for a visit to the doctor's office.

What can you do to get rid of that headache and get on with your life? Consult with your doctor to see which of these steps may help your particular circumstances. 

Remember that this site can only provide general advice on headache, and you should consult your doctor for information specific to your condition. 

Note: Serious causes of headacke are rare. However, if your headache is very severe, or unlike other headaches you have had in the past, or accompanied by numbness, weakness , lack of muscular control, or difficulty seeing or speaking, get to a hospital without delay! Such symptoms may indicate aneurism, stroke or brain infection (encephalitis). Minutes lost after a stroke equal brain cells lost.

Headache Types

Headache is a pain felt in the head or neck regions of the body.

Tension Headaches are due to muscle tightness in the jaw, scalp, neck or shoulders, generally brought on my worries, stress, depression, inadequate sleep and alcohol use. Muscle tightness, in turn, may be caused by staying in one position for a long time, sleeping in a bad position or grinding the teeth (perhaps during sleep). Tension headaches are generally felt on both sides of the head, often spreading from the back to the front. Some sufferers complain of a squeezing pain, like a vise on the head.

Migraine Headaches are severe, occur repeatedly, and may be accompanied by nausea and changes in vision (color auras, for example). Migraines often begin on one side of the head and may spread to the other side. Migraine sufferers may learn to predict the headaches based upon visual disturbances they experience.

Sinus Headaches cause pain in the face and toward the front of the head. Inflammation of the sinuses are the immediate cause, and such inflammation may come about from allergies, bacteria and viruses. The pain is worse when the person first awakens in the morning, and when they bend forward.

Cluster Headaches are less common than other headaches. They are very painful, sharp headaches that come in clusters of several per day, then respite for a few weeks, then another cluster and so on.

Other Headaches include those brought on in regular coffee drinkers by lack of caffeine, accompanying bacterial and viral infections and during premenstrual syndrome. If a person over age 50 who has never had headaches suddenly has one, it might be caused by temporal arteritis and should be investigated immediately by a doctor. Rare, but serious, causes of headache include brain tumor, aneurysm, stroke, heart attack, meningitis and encephalitis.

Headache Treatments

To treat your headaches, it helps to know what causes them. If you are troubled by frequent headaches, keep a diary telling when each headache begins, what you have recently eaten and drunk, any unusual stress and anything else that might help determine a pattern. Your diary may help you learn what is causing your headaches, and thereby help you avoid those causes.

Non-drug treatments for headaches include closing the eyes and resting the head on a soft surface...headache sufferers figure this out rather quickly. Relaxation techniques also can help. Some headaches are relieved with massage, or heat applied to the back of the upper neck, or cold or heat applied to the forehead.

Non-prescription drugs that relieve headache pain include acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen. Coffee or other source of caffeine often helps. Avoid giving aspirin to children because of the risk of Reye's Syndrome. Some over-the-counter medicines are especially formulated for migraine headaches.

Your physician can prescribe medications to treat migraine headaches, including ergots [ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, ergotamine with caffeine (Cafergot), isometheptene (Midrin), and triptans like sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), almotriptan (Axert) and andzolmitriptan (Zomig)]. Other prescription meds may be used to relieve nausea and vomiting which may accompany migraines.

Doctors can also prescribe medicines to prevent headaches from starting. These include antidepressants [nortriptyline (Pamelor), amitryptyline (Elavil), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil)], beta blockers [propranolol (Inderal)] and calcium channel blockers (verapamil).

Repeated use of pain medications (say, more than two days a week) can cause "rebound headaches." All pain medications, muscle relaxants, caffeine and some decongestants can cause rebound headaches. Your physician can advise if you find yourself with this problem.

Go to the Emergency Room Immediately If:

Any of these symptoms can indicate a serious, life-threatening condition. Seek emergency care immediately if:

  • Your headache comes on suddenly and is severe, or is much worse than other headaches you have experienced..
  • You experience muscle weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking or understanding, dizziness, confusion or memory loss.
  • You have a stiff neck, fever, nausea and vomiting with the headache.
  • Your headache gets worse over a 24-hour period.
  • Your headache follows a head injury.
  • The headache is severe and centered on one eye that is red.
  • Your age is over 50 and you have not had headaches but now you do, particularly if your vision is affected or if you experience pain while chewing.

Go to Your Health Care Provider If:

  • Your headaches awaken you from sleep, or are worse in the mornings.
  • Your headache persists for several days.
  • Your pattern of headaches changes in type or intensity.
  • Your have frequent headaches with no known cause.

Diagnostic Tools

After interviewing you, your health care provider may use any of several diagnostic methods. They include CT scan of the head, MRI of the head, X-rays of the sinuses, arterial biopsy and lumbar puncture

If you have migrain headaches, medications like ergots [ ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, ergotamine with caffeine (Cafergot), isometheptene (Midrin)] and triptans [ sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), almotriptan (Axert) and andzolmitriptan (Zomig)] may be prescribed. Temporal arteritis must be treated with steroids to help prevent blindness. Tell your health care provider if you are on a limited budget, so s/he can prescribe the least costly medicines.

Preventing Headaches

Of course, you will want to do what you can to prevent headaches from recurring. Here is a list of methods that have helped others to prevent headaches:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take stretch breaks if you work for long periods in one position
  • Learn and practice proper posture
  • Quit the use of tobacco products
  • Practice relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation