Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Font Size

How to Get Past Tension Headaches

WebMD Health News

May 1, 2001 -- Since headaches affect so many of us, we may just write them off as an unpleasant fact of life. Long-term, persistent tension headaches occur about every other day in 3% of women -- and in about half as many men -- and they interfere with work in almost half of sufferers.

The best shot at knocking out these tenacious headaches, according to a new study, is with a combination of antidepressants and stress-management therapy. This two-sided attack works better than either treatment alone, say researchers.

The study appears in the May 2 issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

Do you have tension headaches or migraines? WebMD has a place to talk about it: Migraines: Open Discussion.

"Lots of people with [recurrent] headaches may have tried treatment that didn't work, so now they're not seeking treatment anymore," says researcher Kenneth A. Holroyd, PhD, a professor of psychology at Ohio University in Athens. "Our study suggests that they shouldn't give up -- this combination improves the quality of life for many."

And the use of antidepressants doesn't indicate that doctors think the headaches are a symptom of the blues.

"Just because headache patients are given antidepressants doesn't mean that they're depressed," Lawrence C. Newman, MD, tells WebMD after reviewing the findings. These medications relieve pain apart from any effect on depression, explains Newman, director of the Headache Institute at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

Holroyd's team studied more than 200 adults with tension headaches occurring 26 days a month, on average. About three-quarters of the people studied were women, and about half had not seen a doctor in at least six months, despite their history of persistent headaches.

Subjects were placed in one of four groups: one that got an antidepressant medication; another that got an inactive placebo medication; a third that got stress management therapy and placebo; and a fourth that got stress management and an antidepressant medication. The antidepressants used were from an older group of drugs known as tricyclic antidepressants.

Although antidepressants and stress management were each better than placebo in reducing headaches, the number of painkillers taken, and interference with work, the antidepressants worked faster. With combined therapy, 64% of the study volunteers had less than half the number of headaches, compared with 38% of the people on antidepressants alone, 35% of those on stress management alone, and 29% of those on the inactive placebo.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Business woman with hand on face and eyes closed
What aura looks like, triggers, and more.
woman with migraine
Get the truth about migraines.
headache in the bedroom
Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
woman with hands on head
Test your knowledge of triggers, types, and more.
woman with migraine
drinking coffee
Migraines Headaches Basics
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Tired young man
spraying perfume
man with a headache
headache in the bedroom