When headaches won't go away

How to get rid of the throbbing pain—plus, warning signs that your headache could be something more serious.

When one of her bad migraines hits, Jacqueline G. (last name withheld) can't do anything but lie down in a dark room and wait for the waves of pain to recede. "It's completely debilitating," says the 73 year old, who has been plagued by severe migraines since her 20s. "The nausea comes on right away, and then I can't keep anything down—even crackers or ice. And it can last from early morning to 12 at night."

Migraines—which are associated with dilated blood vessels in the brain—are a particularly disabling form of headache because they launch a four-tiered attack:

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