Most patients treat episodic tension-type headaches themselves, with over-the-counter pain relievers. Fast acting anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and Aleve® often work better than Tylenol®, but results vary from patient to patient. Aspirin can also be quite effective, but can cause ulcers if used excessively. Daily use of over-the-counter medications can cause episodic tension-type headache to turn into a daily headaches.
When over-the-counter medications fail, prescription strength NSAIDs can be used. If headaches are infrequent, narcotics can be used. In the US, butalbital containing medications are widely used despite being banned in Europe. Preventatives typically reduce headache severity and frequency and should be utilized early for those patients who do not respond well to acute therapy.
This educational content was written by Brian D. Loftus, MD, a neurologist, headache specialist and a developer of iHeadache. The science and study of headaces is changing rapidly. If there is information on this page that is incorrect or needs revision, please contact us.
iHeadache is a comprehensive electronic headache diary that tracks how many headaches you are having, your disability, medication usage, triggers, pain and more.
Originally developed for the iPhone and BlackBe rry, iHeadache is now available online. Your data is available, at a glance or in detail, when you need it.
Share your data with your doctor to optimize your treatment plan. Accurate data tracking helps your doctor determine what works and what doesn't.