Headache treatment depends largely on determining the cause of the headache. Tension headaches can usually be treated by the use of over-the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, Motrin, or even aspirin. When tension or stress is the cause, nondrug options may include massage to relieve muscle tension, yoga and other forms of exercise, and working less when possible.
The treatment of migraine headaches is somewhat more involved and may involve a number of different approaches to the pain. (Please see the topic covered under "Migraine Headaches"). Cluster headaches, because of their more severe nature, require the attention of a doctor who can prescribe proper treatments, usually medications.
Several types of migraine drugs can help prevent the piercing pain of migraines, including:
Beta-blockers such as Inderal (propanalol) and Toprol (metoprolol), which relax blood vessels
Calcium channel blockers such as Cardizem (dilatizem) and verapamil, which reduce the amount of narrowing (constriction) of the blood vessels
Antidepressants such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline -- tricyclic antidepressants which have been shown to be effective in preventing migraines.
Sinus headaches can usually be relieved by addressing the cause. This may involve the use of over-the-counter decongestants or may require the use of antibiotics to cure a sinus infection. Infrequently, surgery may be necessary to drain a sinus abscess or to relieve chronic sinus inflammation.
It is important to note that some headaches may return after the regular use of strong pain-relieving medications. These headaches are known as medication overuse, or "rebound" headaches, since they occur when the pain reliever wears off.
Relaxation techniques such as meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, and acupuncture, and for some, the use of herbal remedies, may all treat headache pain.
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Livingstone, I., Novak, D.; "Breaking the Headache Cycle: A Proven Program for Treating and Preventing Recurring Headaches," Novak Owl Books, 2004.
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Young, W., "Migraine and other Headaches," Demos Medical Publishing, 2004.
Cady R., "Sinus headache: a neurology, otolaryngology, allergy, and primary care consensus on diagnosis and treatment," Mayo Clinic Proceedings, July 2005.