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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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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 headaches

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 headaches

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 headaches

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:

dplink.gif 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.

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