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Pain Conditions We Treat

Headaches are one of the most common pain-related health problems in both children and adults. You may have a headache along with another minor health problem such as a sore throat, a cold, or a sinus problem.

Most of the time, headaches get better or go away with home treatment and don't require a visit to a doctor. Home treatment for headaches can often help reduce how long you have pain and how severe it is. Start home treatment as soon as you can.

If your doctor has prescribed a specific treatment for your headaches, begin treatment as soon as a headache starts. Be sure to follow the doctor's instructions when you take any prescription medicine for your headache.

If you are taking headache medicine more than 2 days a week, talk with your doctor. Taking medicine too often can cause more headaches. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment for your headaches.

Types of headaches

Most types of headaches usually aren't dangerous. Some headaches may occur again and again, such as:

  • Tension headaches. These are the most common type of headache. They are often caused by stress and emotional strain. Most adults have tension headaches from time to time, and everyone may have different areas of pain.
  • Cluster headaches.
  • Migraine headaches.
Common causes of headaches

Common causes of headaches may include:

  • Stress.
  • Skipping meals or not getting enough to eat.
  • Sleeping too much or not enough.
  • Alcohol use.
  • Sinus problems.
  • Getting too much or too little caffeine.
  • Certain foods or drinks.

In rare cases, a headache may be a symptom of a serious illness or injury.

How can you care for your headache?
  • Rest in a quiet, dark room until your headache is gone. Close your eyes and try to relax or go to sleep. Don't watch TV or read.
  • Put a cold, moist cloth or cold pack on the painful area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the cold pack and your skin.
  • Use a warm, moist towel or a heating pad set on low to relax tight shoulder and neck muscles.
  • Have someone gently massage your neck and shoulders.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Do not ignore new symptoms that occur with a headache, such as a fever, weakness or numbness, vision changes, or confusion. These may be signs of a more serious problem.
To prevent headaches
  • Keep a headache diary so you can figure out what triggers your headaches. Avoiding triggers may help you prevent headaches. Record when each headache began, how long it lasted, and what the pain was like (throbbing, aching, stabbing, or dull). Write down any other symptoms you had with the headache, such as nausea, flashing lights or dark spots, or sensitivity to bright light or loud noise. Note if the headache occurred near your period. List anything that might have triggered the headache, such as certain foods (chocolate, cheese, wine) or odors, smoke, bright light, stress, or lack of sleep.
  • Find healthy ways to deal with stress. Headaches are most common during or right after stressful times. Take time to relax before and after you do something that has caused a headache in the past.
  • Try to keep your muscles relaxed by keeping good posture. Check your jaw, face, neck, and shoulder muscles for tension, and try relaxing them. When sitting at a desk, change positions often, and stretch for 30 seconds each hour.
  • Get plenty of sleep and exercise.
  • Eat regularly. Long periods without food can trigger a headache.
  • Limit caffeine by not drinking too much coffee, tea, or soda. But don't quit caffeine suddenly, because that can also give you headaches.
  • Reduce eyestrain from computers by blinking frequently and looking away from the computer screen every so often. Make sure you have proper eyewear and that your monitor is set up properly, about an arm's length away.
What medications are used to prevent headaches?

Preventive medicines are used to avoid severe or chronic headaches, such as migraines or cluster headaches. They are not used to treat headaches after they begin.

Examples of preventive medicines are:

  • Anticonvulsants.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Beta-blockers.
  • Botulinum toxin.
  • Calcium channel blockers.

In order for these medicines to work, you will need to use them exactly as your doctor tells you to. You may need to take them daily even when you do not have a headache. Some people only have to take preventive medicines for a few months. Other people need to take them long-term. Botulinum toxin is given as multiple shots.