Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults and adolescents. These muscle contraction headaches cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over a prolonged period of time. They can last from 30 minutes to several days.
• A headache that is constant, not throbbing. You usually feel the pain or pressure on both sides of your head
• Pressure that makes you feel like your head is in a vise
• Aching pain at your temples or the back of your head and neck
Most people can treat their tension headaches with pain relievers that you buy without a prescription, like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or aspirin.
There are many factors to consider when deciding about prescription drugs for tension headaches.
Reasons to take
• You have moderate to severe headaches that affect your daily activities
• You have frequent or chronic tension headaches
• Your symptoms get in the way of your ability to function and you miss school or work because of chronic tension headaches
• You have tried taking nonprescription pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen, but they do not relieve your symptoms
• Your tension headaches are related to anxiety and depression
• You have tried numerous stress management therapies but none have helped
Reasons not to take
• You have mild to moderate tension headaches that are not disabling
• You get tension headaches only once in awhile
• Your symptoms can be controlled by nonprescription pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen
• Other drugs that you are taking for additional health conditions interact poorly with drugs for tension headaches
• You believe your tension headaches are related to stress, and you want to try stress management therapies before trying drugs
• You are pregnant or nursing a baby
The exact causes of migraines are unknown. Migraine pain is moderate to severe, often described as pounding, throbbing pain. They can last from four hours to three days and usually occur one to four times per month.
Migraines are associated with symptoms such as sensitivity to light, noise or odors; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and stomach upset or abdominal pain. Most migraines last about four hours, although severe ones can last up to a week.
People with migraine headaches can try managing mild to moderate attacks at home with the following strategies:
• Applying a cold compress to the area of pain
• Resting and comfortably supporting the head or neck
• Drinking a moderate amount of caffeine
• Trying certain over-the-counter headache medications
• Withdrawing from stressful surroundings
• When these efforts do not help, migraine headaches may be eased with prescription medications.