Chronic Daily Headache

Do you get regular headaches? If you get them for 4 hours or longer at least half of each month, and for more than 3 months, you might have what doctors call a chronic daily headache. Different treatments can bring relief, but first you need to figure out what type of headache you have.

Tension-type Headache

When you get a tension-type headache, you may have a constant, aching pressure that feels like a band wrapped around your head.

Many things can trigger it, such as:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Too little rest
  • Poor posture

Tension-type headaches typically affect both sides of your head. Your doctor may prescribe other medications, such as an antidepressant. They can help you get fewer headaches and make them less severe. They can also help prevent headaches.

Along with your medicine, your doctor may suggest that you try to relax and cut stress.

Migraine Headache

This type of headache could also signal a condition known as migraine which causes throbbing pain, often on one side of your head. Other symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to light, noise, and smells
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision or seeing spots, dots, or zigzag lines.

Migraines headaches can last from half an hour to several days. Your doctor may use certain medications to keep them from happening as often. Your doctor may also give you medicine to get rid of nausea from the headaches.

Other therapies can help:

  • Hormone therapy for women whose migraines are linked to their menstrual cycle
  • Stress management, including exercise, relaxation, and biofeedback

Medication Overuse or Rebound Headache

If you use pain medications too often to treat your headaches, you could get what are called medication overuse headaches (MOH).

MOH can get worse until you get the right treatment. You can usually bring them under control if you gradually cut back on your pain drugs and take preventive medicine. Work with your doctor to get the right strategy.

Some people with severe MOH need to have their pain medicine weaned off in the hospital where their pain can be controlled. With careful monitoring, a headache specialist will wean you off of the painkillers.

You might have more headaches during the first several weeks of treatment. Eventually, you'll only have them every so often. Your doctor may prescribe preventive medications to keep you free of headaches.

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Hemicrania Continua

This is a rare type of headache, but it causes pain that's usually on one side of your face and head. 

Your doctor may diagnose hemicrania continua if you have head pain continuously for at least 3 months without the pain shifting sides or ever going away. It's usually moderate but can get better or worse, at times turning into brief, piercing head pain.

You may have other symptoms, too, including:

  • Red, teary eyes
  • A stuffy or runny nose
  • A drooping eyelid
  • A small pupil, the black circle in the center of your eye

You can treat hemicrania continua with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) called indomethacin (Indocin, Tivorbex). Usually, it provides quick relief, but it can cause stomach side effects, so you might need an acid-fighting drug.

Another NSAID, celecoxib (Celebrex), can also treat your pain if you can't handle indomethacin's side effects. Sometimes, doctors also prescribe tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, to prevent these headaches.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 20, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Rebound Headaches," "What Are Tension-Type Headaches?"

National Institutes of Health: Patient Education Institute's "Migraine Headaches."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "NINDS Hemicrania Continua Information Page."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Chronic Daily Headache."

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