Tension Headaches - Medications
Your doctor may recommend medicine to treat or prevent tension headaches.
You might only need to take an over-the-counter medicine for pain. These medicines usually have fewer side effects than prescription drugs. Always be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Over-the-counter drugs to stop
Over-the-counter medicines that you can use to stop a headache include:
Try to avoid taking over-the-counter drugs more than 3 times a week, because you may get rebound headaches. These are different from tension headaches. They usually occur after headache medicine has worn off. This leads you to take another dose. After a while, you get a headache whenever you stop taking the medicine.
Prescription drugs to stop
In some cases your doctor may prescribe a medicine such as a barbiturate or narcotic to stop a headache if nonprescription medicines don't work. But these drugs can be habit-forming and should be used rarely and only for a short time.
Prescription drugs to prevent
Your doctor may recommend that you take a prescription medicine every day to prevent headaches. You may want to take this medicine if:
- Over-the-counter medicines don't work to stop your headaches.
- You're taking drugs to stop headaches more than 3 times a week.
- You get a headache more than 15 days a month.
Medicines used to prevent tension headaches include:
Headaches: Should I Take Prescription Medicine for Tension Headaches?
Botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A) is sometimes injected into the muscles in the face and head to treat headaches. In the past, doctors thought that spasms caused tension headaches. But BTX-A injections do not seem to help with symptoms of tension headaches.1, 2 And BTX-A may cause weakness of the facial muscles and may make it hard for you to swallow.