How to Get Rid of Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms

For all of your headaches, do you use acetaminophen or aspirin? For certain types of headaches, that may not be the best approach. Here’s why.

You have a headache. Again. To stop recurring headaches, the first step is to determine what type of headache you have. Sometimes, a headache is a symptom of another condition or situation, while other times, there may be no clear cause.

Pay close attention to the signs and symptoms of your headache. Keeping a headache diary can help determine the type of headache you’re experiencing. Note when your headaches occur, your symptoms, and potential triggers such as food, stress, or changes in sleep patterns.

Type of headaches

There are many types and subtypes of headaches. Chronic daily headaches, which occur for 15 or more days per month, are one subtype. Tension-type headaches and migraines are also common subtypes of headaches. They can both be chronic, although they don’t always occur consistently. Other types of long-lasting daily headaches include:

  • Hemicrania continua, a one-sided headache that can feel similar to a migraine.
  • Primary stabbing headache, which lasts for a few seconds and can occur multiple times throughout the day.
  • Primary exertional headache caused by physical activity.
  • Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania, a severe, one-sided headache that can be triggered by explosive or congested nose.
  • Medication overuse headache, caused by excessive use of pain-relieving medications for headaches, lasting at least three months.
  • These headaches occur for at least 15 days per month.

Other types of headaches include:

Cluster headache, causing severe one-sided head pain and lasting for weeks or months with recurrent episodes. Cluster headaches are associated with specific signs and symptoms, such as tearing, nasal congestion, and runny nose. They are excruciatingly painful.



The most typical sort of headache is one of tension:
– A band-like pressure or squeezing sensation around your head, mild to moderate pain or pressure on both sides of your head,
– A dull ache, and
– Mild to moderate pain or pressure on both sides of your head.
– Can be episodic or chronic.
– Can last from 30 minutes to one week.


Most episodic tension-type headaches can be treated with over-the-counter medications, including:
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)

Migraine -

Daily prescription medications and lifestyle modifications can help manage chronic tension-type headaches. Alternative treatments aimed at stress reduction can also be helpful. They may include:
– Behavioral therapies
– Biofeedback
– Massage therapy
– Acupuncture
– Chiropractic


Migraine is another common type of headache, which affects women three times more than men. Migraines typically involve:
– Moderate to severe pain, which can be throbbing or pulsating.
– Sensitivity to sounds, odors, or light.
– Pain that affects only one side of your head but can occur on both sides.
– Worsening pain with physical activity like climbing stairs.
– Resisting therapy for four to 72 hours.


The goal of migraine treatment is to relieve symptoms and prevent future attacks. Avoid such triggers and learn how to manage your migraines if you are aware of what causes them. This can help prevent or reduce the severity of migraines. Treatment options may include:
– Sleeping in a silent, dark space
– Wrapping your head or neck in hot or cold compresses.
– Moderate caffeine intake
– Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), and aspirin
– Prescription medications like triptans such as sumatriptan (Imitrex) and zolmitriptan (Zomig)
– Preventive medications like metoprolol (Lopressor), propranolol (Inderal, others), amitriptyline, divalproex (Depakote), topiramate (Qudexy XR, Treximet), or erenumab-aooe (Aimovig)

Recognize emergency symptoms

– If you have any emergency symptoms, seek immediate medical attention, including:
– Very severe, sudden headache
– Headache after head injury or fall
– Fever, neck stiffness, rash, confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness, or difficulty speaking
– Headache that worsens despite treatment
– These symptoms indicate a more serious condition, so prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial.

Almost everyone gets headaches, and for many, it’s no big deal. However, if headaches are interfering with your activities, work, or personal life, it’s time to see your doctor. Although they can’t always be totally avoided, headaches can sometimes be managed with the help of your doctor.

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