Alternate Names : Pain - head, Rebound headaches, Medication overuse headaches
Home Care & Treatment
Keep a headache diary to help identify the source or trigger of your symptoms. Then modify your environment or habits to avoid future headaches. When a headache occurs, write down the date and time the headache began, what you ate for the past 24 hours, how long you slept the night before, what you were doing and thinking about just before the headache started, any stress in your life, how long the headache lasts, and what you did to make it stop. After a period of time, you may begin to see a pattern.
A headache may be relieved by resting with your eyes closed and head supported. Relaxation techniques can help. A massage or heat applied to the back of the upper neck can be effective in relieving tension headaches.
Try acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen for tension headaches. Do NOT give aspirin to children because of the risk of Reye syndrome.
Migraine headaches may respond to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or migraine medications that contain a combination of drugs.
If over-the-counter remedies do not control your pain, talk to your doctor about possible prescription medications.
Prescription medications used for migraine headaches include ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, ergotamine with caffeine (Cafergot), isometheptene (Midrin), and triptans like sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), eletriptan (Relpax), almotriptan (Axert), and zolmitriptan (Zomig). Sometimes medications to relieve nausea and vomiting are helpful for other migraine symptoms.
If you get headaches often, your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent headaches before they occur. It is important to take these medicines every day as prescribed, even when you are not having a headache.
People who take pain medications regularly for 3 or more days a week may develop medication overuse, or rebound, headaches. All types of pain pills (including over-the-counter drugs) can cause rebound headaches. If you think this may be a problem for you, talk to your health care provider.
Call your Health Care Provider if
Take the following symptoms seriously. If you cannot see your health care provider immediately, go to the emergency room or call 911 if:
- This is the first headache you have ever had in your life and it interferes with your daily activities
- Your headache comes on suddenly and is explosive or violent
- You would describe your headache as "your worst ever" even if you are prone to headaches
- Your headache is associated with slurred speech, change in vision, problems moving your arms or legs, loss of balance, confusion, or memory loss
- Your headache gets progressively worse over a 24-hour period
- Your headache is accompanied by fever, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting
- Your headache occurs with a head injury
- Your headache is severe and localized to one eye with redness in that eye
- You are over age 50 and your headaches just began, especially with impaired vision and pain while chewing
- You have cancer and develop a new headache
See your provider soon if:
- Your headaches wake you up from sleep
- A headache lasts more than a few days
- Headaches are worse in the morning
- You have a history of headaches but they have changed in pattern or intensity
- You have headaches frequently, and there is no known cause
What to Expect at your Health Care Provider's Office
Your health care provider will obtain your medical history and will perform an examination of your head, eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck, and nervous system.
The diagnosis is usually based on your history of symptoms. A "headache diary" may be helpful for recording information about headaches over a period of time. Your doctor may ask questions such as the following:
- Is the headache located in the forehead, around the eyes, in the back of the head, near the temples, behind the eyeball, or all over?
- Is the headache on one side only?
- Is this a new type of headache for you?
- Would you describe the headache as throbbing?
- Is there a pressure or band-like sensation?
- When does the headache occur? How long have you had headaches? How long does each headache last?
- Does the headache awaken you from sleep? Are the headaches worse during the day and better at night?
- Did other symptoms begin shortly after the headaches began? Do headaches occur repeatedly?
- Does the headache reach maximum intensity over 1 to 2 hours?
- Are the headaches worse when you are lying down? Standing up?
- Are the headaches worse when you cough or strain?
- Do they occur at a specific time related to your menstrual period?
- What home treatment have you tried? How effective was it?
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
If a migraine is diagnosed, medications that contain ergot may be prescribed. Temporal arteritis must be treated with steroids to help prevent blindness. Other disorders are treated as is appropriate.