Headache - Treatment

There are two kinds of headache treatment, called abortive and prophylactic. Abortive treatment is used with headaches that are already in progress. Prophylactic treatments are used to prevent headaches from occurring.

The most common drugs used to treat tension and migraine headaches are aspirin, acetaminophen (pronounced uh-SEAT-uh-min-uh-fin), ibuprofen (pronounced EYE-byu-pro-fin), or naproxen. Antidepressants and muscle relaxants can also be used to treat tension headaches. Three drugs that have had some success in the treatment of migraines include ergotamine tartrate, sumatriptan, and extra-strength Excedrin (which includes caffeine). Cluster headaches are also treated with ergotamine tartrate (pronounced ur-GOT-uhmeen TAR-trait) and sumatriptan (pronounced SOO-muh-TRIP-tan), as well as with pure oxygen. Prophylactic treatments include prednisone (pronounced PRED-nih-zone), calcium channel blockers, and methysergide (pronounced METH-ih-SIR-jide).

Alternative Treatment

A number of alternative treatments have been recommended for treating and preventing headaches. These include:

  • Acupuncture or acupressure
  • Biofeedback

The phases of a typical migraine headache. (Illustration by Hans & Cassady, Inc.)
The phases of a typical migraine headache. (Illustration by
Hans & Cassady, Inc.

  • Chiropractic
  • Herbal remedies, such as chamomile, feverfew, valerian, white willow, and skullcap
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Massage
  • Magnesium supplements
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, a technique that uses mild electrical shocks in an effort to prevent pain signals in the body

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