Headache

Headaches inflict their misery in a variety of ways. Some start from a dull, steady ache maybe in the back of the head, maybe on the top of the head or maybe it is just a pain on the left or right side of the head. Others go straight to a blinding, throbbing pain. Nearly everyone has headaches at least now and then, but an unfortunate few experience near-frequent head pain. Common headache types include tension headaches, cluster headaches, rebound headaches, sinus headaches, and migraine.

There are a number of treatment strategies that work best for each type of headache. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen do the trick for many people. Others need muscle relaxants or even stronger medicines. Some find relief from self-help and alternative techniques like acupuncture.

Instead of waiting to be blindsided by another sudden or pounding headache, preventive strategies can be taken, such as using stress management, physical therapy, or exercise in tandem with medications. Another aspect of prevention is learning to recognize and change things that may trigger your headaches — like reducing emotional stress, changing your diet, or getting more sleep. Advances in the medical management of headache mean that relief is no longer just possible, but probable. Although some form of head pain will occasionally visit most people, no one should have to live and suffer with headaches.

Headache Articles

Acetaminophen safety: Be cautious but not afraid

For the average healthy adult, the generally recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen is no more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) from all sources. But in some people, doses close to the 4,000 mg daily limit for adults could still be toxic to the liver. It's safest to take only what you need, and to not exceed 3,000 mg a day whenever possible, especially if you use acetaminophen often. More »

Different types of headache need different treatments

The most common types of headaches in older adults include tension, migraine, and sinus headaches. Knowing which type of headache one has will indicate which medications to use first. Sometimes a headache is a sign of a serious medical problem, such as a stroke or high blood pressure. People should seek immediate care for headaches that interfere with daily activities, and headaches that come on suddenly like a blow to the head or cause confusion, eye or ear pain, fever, convulsions, or weakness. (Locked) More »

Migraines: Can dementia, stroke or heart attack be next?

Despite the association between migraine headaches and small brain lesions that can be a risk factor for cognitive decline, it appears that migraines will not hurt thinking skills. However, migraines with aura should be considered a factor indicating increased risk of cardiovascular disease. There is currently no evidence that treating or preventing migraine reduces future risks of heart attack and stroke. People who are concerned about the risk can reduce it by controlling blood pressure, quitting smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. (Locked) More »

New thinking on migraine triggers

Suspected triggers for migraine with aura may not be as strong as some people think. Research suggests that a person who experiences migraines with aura can cross a trigger off the list if exposure to it for three months doesn't cause a problem. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Can migraines lead to memory loss?

Some studies have linked migraine headaches to an increased risk of symptom-free or "silent" strokes, which can lead to memory loss and dementia. However, the Women's Health Study did not find a higher risk cognitive decline in women with migraines. (Locked) More »

Headaches from headache medication?

If you have a new or worsening headache, see a doctor. Chronic headache can be made worse by overuse of pain medications. The cure is to stop taking the medications entirely, with use of other drugs to help ease you through medication withdrawal. (Locked) More »

Acupuncture relieves common types of chronic pain

Acupuncture relieves chronic pain in the back, neck, and shoulders, and from osteoarthritis and headaches. Acupuncture is often used in addition to standard treatments, such as pain medications, when they do not relieve pain well enough. (Locked) More »

Fool your brain, reduce your pain

You can help relieve chronic pain by distracting your brain. If you have a demanding enough task, you’ll have less attention to give to your pain. Distractions may release natural painkillers that block incoming pain signals as they enter the spinal cord. Distractions can include memory games or any activity so pleasurable or meaningful that it distracts you from your pain. And you don’t have to choose just one activity. Using your brain to do more things that are rewarding tips the balance away from pain. (Locked) More »

When headaches won't go away

Migraines are a particularly disabling form of headache because they launch a four-tiered attack—the prodrome (or preheadache), aura (flashing lights or other visual phenomena), actual migraine, and “headache hangover.” Researchers still aren’t sure exactly what causes migraines, but women are three times more likely to get migraine headaches than men, in part because of the hormone estrogen. Treatments such as triptans, blood pressure drugs, and antidepressants, as well as newer therapies like Botox and alternative remedies, can help with chronic migraines. More »