Migraines and Headaches Treatments

Prevention and Medications for Migraines and Headaches

The best rule-of-thumb for migraine and headache treatment is: Have a plan. See your doctor and develop a treatment strategy together. Your plan will help you recognize and treat your headaches or migraines early, sparing you some pain.

Tension Headache Behavioral Treatments
When you get a tension-type headache, it is usually because of a change in your head, neck, or face. The muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and other tissues are experiencing distress. Treat the change, and you may reduce your headache.

If you have been hunched over a laptop at work, it can build up unwanted tension. Or perhaps you started a new medication, or had slight neck injury.

Take a moment to stretch, relax, or massage your face, head, and neck. Consider a nap, a hot shower, or using warm pack or ice pack on your head or neck.

In-depth Migraine and Headache Treatment Articles

Medications for Tension Headaches
For tension headaches, you have numerous over-the-counter medication choices. Ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, and aspirin are all effective. If you suspect your headache is vascular (related to your blood vessels), consider a pain reliever that includes some caffeine.

If your headache does not respond to your behavioral techniques and medications, contact your doctor for more ideas. If the headache lasts for more than 10 days or becomes severe, see your doctor. Your headache may be a sign of another condition.

Cluster Headache Treatments
Inhaling 100% oxygen right when a cluster headache starts can help reduce the pain substantially. Your doctor can help you get a portable oxygen unit to carry in a bag or briefcase.

Sumatriptan, a mainstay migraine medication, is also effective for cluster headaches. Learn to inject yourself right when you feel the first signs of your cluster headache. Other helpful cluster headache medications are dihydroergotamine, administered through an IV, and octreotide delivered as an injection.

Migraine Headache Prevention
Over the past 2 decades, doctors have learned effective treatments for reducing the frequency of migraines. Avoid migraine triggers, improve your sleep, alter your nutrition, and take preventive medication.

Among the many migraine triggers, several are foods, so you can reduce your migraine risk by avoiding:

  • certain beans, legumes, and nuts
  • fermented and pickled foods like olives and pickles
  • cultured dairy and aged cheese
  • avocados
  • onions
  • cured or aged meats
  • items containing brewer's yeast
  • chocolate, cocoa, and carob
  • aspartame
  • alcoholic beverages
  • caffeine

Other common migraine triggers include:

  • stress
  • weather changes
  • poor diet
  • hormonal changes
  • nicotine
  • intense physical activities

As you pay attention to what triggers your migraines, you can learn better what to avoid—this is just a starting list.

Your doctor will also consider other medications that prevent migraines. He or she may prescribe:

  • the blood pressure drugs propranolol or timolol
  • anti-depressants such as amitriptyline or fluoxetine
  • the seizure medication valproate

While these drugs came to market to treat other conditions, they are also effective for migraine prevention.

Treating Migraine Attacks
Migraine treatment is a race against the clock. When you sense the warning signs of a migraine, you can take steps to reduce the intensity of the attack. That is the time to lie down, relax, and take your medications.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), aspirin, and acetaminophen relieve some migraines. However, many migraine sufferers need stronger medications such as sumatriptan or another medication from the triptan family. In some extreme situations, your doctor may treat you with an opioid.

Treatments such as ice packs or cold compresses on your forehead rush immediate relief. Massaging your scalp and rubbing your temples may also help reduce the intensity of the migraine.

Updated on: 11/19/15
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