Overview of headache
A headache is a very common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. It’s estimated that 7 in 10 people have at least one headache each year.
Headache can sometimes be mild, but in many cases, it can cause severe pain that makes it difficult to concentrate at work and perform other daily activities. Most headaches can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
What are the symptoms of a headache?
- Dull, aching head pain
- The sensation of tightness or pressure across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head.
- Tenderness on your scalp, neck and shoulder muscles.
Tension headaches are divided into two main categories episodic and chronic.
Episodic tension headaches
Episodic tension can last from 30 minutes to a week. Frequent episodic tension pain occurs less than 15 days a month for at least three months. Frequent episodic tension headaches may become chronic.
Chronic tension headaches
This type of pain lasts hours and may be continuous. If your headaches occur 15 or more days a month for at least three months, they’re considered chronic.
Treatment for headache
Some people with tension headaches do not seek medical help and do not try to treat the pain themselves. Unfortunately, repeated use of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can lead to another type of pain, and a more severe.
Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are available:
- Common over-the-counter pain relievers are often the first line of treatment. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), and naproxen (Alev).
- Combined drugs. Aspirin or acetaminophen or both in combination with the same caffeine or narcotics. Combination medications are more effective than single-substance pain relievers. Most combination drugs are available OTC.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Rest, ice packs or a long, hot shower may be all you need to relieve this pain. A variety of strategies can help reduce the severity and frequency of chronic tension without using medicine. Try some of the following:
- Manage your stress level. One way to help reduce stress is to plan and manage your day. Another way is to allow more time to relax. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, back off.
- Go hot or cold. Applying heat or ice, which you like, can reduce tension headaches in sore muscles. To warm up, use a set of low heating pads, a hot water bottle, a warm compress, or a hot towel. A warm bath or shower can also help. For the cold, wrap ice, ice packs, or frozen vegetables in a cloth to protect your skin.
- Perform your posture. Good posture helps keep muscles away from tension. When standing, roll your shoulders back and keep your head level. Pull your abdomen and glutes. When sitting, make sure your thighs are parallel to the ground and your head doesn’t slow down.
Tips for using over-the-counter pain relievers
Over-the-counter pain relievers are safe when used as prescribed. But keep the following precautions in mind:
- Know the active principles of each product. Be sure to read the entire label.
- Do not exceed the recommended dose on the package.
- Carefully review how you use pain relievers and all medications. It is very easy to overdose on yourself.
- Consult your doctor before taking aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Consult your doctor before taking acetaminophen if you have kidney or liver problems.