Medication Options for Headaches
Treating a headache or a migraine can be as simple as a home remedy or taking over-the-counter medication, or alarming enough to visit a doctor or the emergency room. Educating yourself about treatment options for headaches is important.
A headache can occur in any part of the head or on both sides of the head. They can last from less than an hour up to several days. The International Headache Society (IHS) indicates that primary headaches are not caused by another condition, and secondary headaches occur when there is a further underlying cause.
There are three types of primary headaches:
- Cluster headaches are characterized by intense pain, often in or around one eye, and usually occurs around a particular time of year.
- Migraine headaches produce severe throbbing pain, usually in the front or side of the head, and may cause light-headedness, light sensitivity, and nausea.
- Tension headaches include mild to moderate pain as pressure or tightness on both sides of the head and may feel like a band around the head.
Excessive use of medication to treat headache symptoms causes a rebound headache, or medication-overuse headache (MOH), which may result in neck pain, restlessness and a feeling of nasal congestion. A sudden, severe headache that intensifies quickly is a thunderclap headache. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience this type of headache.
The purpose of headache treatment is to stop symptoms and help prevent future attacks.
Pain-relieving medications help relieve symptoms, and preventive medications are taken regularly to reduce the frequency or severity of a headache or migraine. Your treatment choices depend on the frequency and severity of your headaches, whether you have nausea and vomiting with your headaches, how disabling your headaches are, and other medical conditions you have.
Medications used to relieve migraine pain work best when taken at the first sign of an oncoming migraine — as soon as signs and symptoms of a migraine begin. Over-the-counter pain relievers include aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen. When taken for too long, these might cause medication-overuse headaches and other complications. Triptans or Ditans are prescription drugs that block pain pathways in the brain and relieve symptoms of migraine. They are taken as pills, shots or nasal sprays. Side effects can include worsening of migraine-related symptoms.
Preventive medications can help prevent and reduce frequent, long-lasting or severe headaches and migraines. Blood pressure-lowering medications can be helpful in preventing migraines with aura. Antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and injections also can be prescribed to prevent and reduce the frequency of migraines. However, each option comes with side effects that should be discussed with a doctor.
You should see a doctor if headaches become more frequent and severe. If you have migraines or a family history of migraines, a neurologist can diagnose migraines based on your medical history, symptoms, and an examination.
Medications are not the only option to ease headache pain. Home remedies such as resting, or lifestyle changes that help control stress and avoid triggers also help treat headaches. Practices that help relieve headache or migraine with aura pain include:
- Learn relaxation techniques. These practices teach you ways to deal with stressful situations, which may help reduce the number of migraines you have.
- If you feel a headache or migraine coming on, go to a quiet, darkened room and rest. Applying a heat or ice pack to your head or neck or taking a nap may also help.
- Develop an eating and sleeping routine. Try to eat meals regularly around the same time each day and stay hydrated with water. Set and follow a consistent sleep and wake schedule.
- Avoid Headache Triggers. Do not eat certain foods that you know will trigger your headaches. Alcohol, caffeine and noise also are triggers.
- Keep a headache diary. Keeping track of your headache symptoms will help you learn more about what triggers them and what treatment is most effective. Having a headache diary also will help your doctor accurately diagnose your condition.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can reduce tension and help prevent a migraine. If your doctor agrees, choose an aerobic activity you enjoy. Consistent exercise also can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight; obesity is considered to be a factor for migraines.
- Consider Using a Pain-Relieving Device. Small headband and hand-held portable devices that give off electrical or magnetic pulses may help relieve migraines. They can be positioned on your forehead, on the back of your head or on your neck.
What one person benefits from may not be beneficial for another. Your doctor will help you determine the best remedy for you. Before your appointment, have a record of your symptoms and write down questions to ask your doctor. Write down key personal information such as recent life changes and major stressors. Create a list of all medications, including vitamins and supplements, you’ve used to treat your headaches.
Carmichael’s Retail and Compounding Pharmacies in Crowley, Louisiana is a one-stop shop for your medication options. Pharmacists in the Compounding Pharmacy can customize medications to meet the specific needs of the individual patient. Walk-in sales in the Retail Pharmacy allow customers to fill prescriptions and purchase complementary products for headache and migraine treatment. The NOVA line of pillows and wedges and other sleep aids provide additional comfort and neck posture support when rest or a nap is needed for a headache. Our variety of hot/cold gel packs may also benefit you.
We also offer additional ways to fill prescriptions. Our interactive voice response (IVR) system is available for requests for any non-emergency prescriptions and refills past our normal hours of operation. You can refill online and, on the Carmichael’s, “RxLocal” app that can be downloaded on Android and iPhone mobile devices. We can ship certain home medical products directly to your residence from our in-house UPS station within one to three business days.