Antidepressant medicines, which are usually used to treat depression, can be effective in preventing chronic tension headaches. Antidepressants have some pain-relieving properties and may reduce how often headaches occur and how long they last. Antidepressants are also used to improve sleep problems.
Medicines to prevent tension headaches have not been well studied. The best evidence is for amitriptyline. It has been proven to reduce how often tension headaches occur and how bad they get.1 If you do not respond well to amitriptyline, you may try other tricyclic antidepressants, although they may not work as well to relieve your headache.
Side effects of tricyclic antidepressants include:
- Drowsiness or sleepiness.
- Dry mouth.
- Blurred vision.
- Inability to urinate.
- Weight gain.
- Low blood pressure when you stand up quickly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.