What options do I have for headache treatment, and how do I choose?

When choosing a treatment, ask your doctor these questions:

  • What are my chances of getting control over my headache?
  • What are the risks connected with this treatment?
  • What are the potential side effects with this treatment?
  • What will this treatment cost?

You have many headache therapies from which to choose. If one doesn't work, you can change it and find something that will.


When choosing a treatment option, you and your doctor should consider the following:

The most common approach to treating headache is to use medications. In general, there are 2 strategies for using medications:

  • Preventive medications. You may also hear these referred to as prophylactic medicines. The goal with this type of treatment is to head off the pain by preventing headaches and making them less severe if they do occur.You take these every day to reduce the number of headaches you have. Preventive medications can also help reduce the severity of your headache symptoms. These medications are used when headaches are very frequent or very severe.
  • Symptom-relief medications. You may also hear these referred to as acute medicines. The goal with this type of treatment is to relieve the pain of headache attacks. You take these when you are experiencing a headache. You also take them before a headache starts when symptoms indicate a headache is on its way. These medications control your pain and other symptoms you have once a headache has started.

A third treatment option that some people find helpful is to use alternative or complementary therapies. Many of these treatments, though, have not been scientifically proven to work, and some, depending on your situation, can even be dangerous. Before you try an alternative therapy for your headache, discuss it with your primary healthcare provider.

To find out more about these approaches to treating your headache, check out the following two articles:

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