Troubleshooting constant headaches

constant headaches
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Published: August, 2015

Almost everyone gets a headache from time to time. Some people, though, get them daily or almost every day. This problem is known as chronic daily headache. Women are twice as likely as men to have it.

People with this condition get headaches every day or nearly every day for a prolonged period of time — for example, at least five days a week for a year or longer. Most often, chronic daily headache develops in people who used to get the occasional migraine, tension headache, or other type of headache. Sometimes chronic daily headache develops without any preamble or warning.

No matter how it originates, chronic daily headache is notoriously difficult to treat and, understandably, often produces anxiety and depression.

Getting control of chronic daily headaches often means weaning off regular use of pain relievers. Consider other methods to help ease headache pain, too. For example, try a cool compress on the forehead or a heating pad on tight muscles in the neck. You may want to ask your doctor to send you to a physical therapist. Techniques such as massage, ultrasound, and relaxation exercises may also help keep headaches at bay.

Preventive medications are a good choice for some people. Examples include a tricyclic antidepressant such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl), a beta blocker such as propranolol (Inderal) or nadolol (Corgard), or gabapentin (Neurontin). For some people who suffer with chronic daily headaches, other medications may be necessary. As with many chronic conditions, it is important to work closely with your doctor to find the preventive and treatment strategies that work for you.

For more on preventing and treating headaches, buy Headaches, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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