Pain in the head region is called a headache, but there are hundreds of different kinds of headaches, depending on where the pain is located, what the pain is like, and the course of the headache. The most common kind of headaches are tension headaches. Other types of headache include sinus, menstrual, cluster, and migraine. Treatment for headache can vary, and some types of headaches respond better to certain treatments. If you experience headaches, see your doctor to make sure there is no underlying medical cause. Depending on the kind of headache you have, she may also be able to recommend one treatment over another.
Treating Headache with Medication
Over the counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin can relieve pain associated with tension headaches. They may also lessen the severity of migraine headaches.
Prescription medications are usually recommended for migraines or cluster headaches. Triptans were the first medications targeted for migraines. These drugs include sumatriptan (Imitrex) and zolmitriptan (Zomig). They might be used as preventive medications, or to treat symptoms. Talk with your doctor about which medications may be best for your headaches.
Drugs containing ergotamine, known as ergots, aid in muscle constriction. When blood vessels constrict, this can help reduce migraine pain. These drugs are not as widely used due to the triptans
If your doctor prescribes medication for your headaches, tell her about any other medications or supplements you are taking, to avoid any adverse interactions.
Behavioral Treatments for Headache
Medication is not always necessary for headache relief, especially if the headaches are caused by tension. Massage, relaxation training, meditation, lying down in a dark and quiet room, and hot or cold compresses on the head and neck have all been shown to reduce headache pain.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, may be beneficial for some patients. CBT is a kind of talk therapy that enables patients to identify and deal with stressors. Stress management techniques, reframing situations and symptoms, and changing dysfunctional thought patterns are all part of CBT.
Lifestyle Changes to Treat Headache
Changing your diet can affect your headaches. Some individuals with migraines are triggered by foods. Such trigger foods include those high in MSG, lunchmeats containing nitrates, red wine, or caffeine. If you are unsure whether any foods trigger your headaches, keep a headache diary. Note any headaches that follow ingestion of certain foods.
Make sure you are eating regularly. Skipping meals can cause low blood sugar and headaches.
Stay physically active. If your headaches are caused by stress, physical activity can reduce stress. The University of Maryland Medical Center also states that aerobic activity may help prevent migraines. Before starting any exercise routine, check with your doctor to make sure it is safe and appropriate for you to do so.
Complementary Treatment for Headaches
Some individuals find that complementary or alternative treatments are effective in relieving headache pain. Acupuncture, which uses thin needles along energy pathways or pressure points, has been proven beneficial for some individuals.
Several herbs and supplements can help with headaches, including ginger, vitamin B2, magnesium supplements, feverfew, and fish oil. Before using any of these treatments, ask your doctor if it is safe to do so, given your health history and any other medications you are on.