Identifying and Treating Tension Headache's Underlying Causes

Headache Medications

Over-the-Counter Headache Medications

Occasional tension-type headaches generally respond to such over-the-counter medications as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), indomethacin (Indocin) sulindac (Clinoril) naproxen sodium (Aleve), tolmetic (Tolectin) and meclofenamate (Meclomen).

One recent study found that a combination of ibuprofen and caffeine was used successfully to treat episodic tension-type headaches. The medication is not available in the U.S., but the amount of caffeine included in the medication was equivalent to two large cups of coffee.

Prescription Headache Medications

Chronic and occasional serious tension-type headaches that do not respond to over-the-counter medications may require treatment with prescription medications. These include:

  • Acetaminophen mixed with codeine This combination can be prescribed for occasional serious headaches that do not respond to over-the counter medications. Addiction and possible rebound headaches make these advisable only occasionally.
  • Antidepressants Antidepressants, particularly the tricyclics, are used to prevent chronic tension headaches. They can treat both the headache and its underlying cause.
  • Tranquilizers Tranquilizers can be used for short periods when treating chronic tension headaches, but these are highly addictive. The treatment must be monitored carefully.

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