7 Things To Know Before Taking Medicine for your Headache

Headache is a common condition often accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and decreased appetite. Headaches usually last a few minutes and may not be severe enough to disrupt someone’s day-to-day life. However, sometimes headaches can be intense and last for more than a day. Almost half of the people all around the world experience headaches at least once a year. The pain can range from mild to severe and can be chronic or intermittent.

There are different types of headaches, including the most common tension headache, migraine, sinus headache, cluster headache, etc. Headaches are treated in a number of ways. There is no single answer to the question of which is the best headache medicine; it differs for each person according to their situation. Let’s look into the 7 things one should know about headache medications and thus find the best one for each individual.

Types Of Headaches

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Identifying the kind of headache someone is experiencing is essential before deciding on the headache medication. Cluster headaches, migraines, and tension headaches are some primary types of headaches. Another underlying condition does not usually cause them.

Medical conditions like a head injury, high blood pressure, sinus infection, etc., may also result in headaches. However, these types of headaches are considered to be secondary.

Tension headaches are the most common type, while cluster headaches are rare and more painful. Treatments and medications will be different for each of these conditions.

Types Of Medications For Headache

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Headaches are widespread ailments; most people experiencing them do not need to take any medication. Over-the-counter treatments can quickly get rid of the pain quickly. However, for severe headaches affecting an individual’s daily chores, an expert opinion may be required. Generally,  there are three different kinds of medications used for headaches.

All medicines fall under the following categories; relief medicines, abortive therapies, and preventive therapies.

Relief medicines are used directly to reduce pain and other symptoms caused by a headache. Drugs, including ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen-sodium etc., are examples of relief medicines. Abortive therapies will help to stop the cause of the pain. In addition, it reduces symptoms like vomiting and nausea. As the name indicates, preventive therapies reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.

Effect Of Headache Medicine On The Human Body

Medications for different types of headaches affect differently on the body. For example, migraine is associated with the widening of blood vessels. Drugs for migraine narrow down the blood vessels around the brain, which reduces the pain. Other common painkillers work in contrast to the chemical produced by injured or damaged cells in the body. These medications prevent the production of the chemical, which gives messages to the brain to feel pain.

Even though medications help to get rid of pain, they may also cause several side effects. For example, drowsiness is a common side effect of medicines for headaches. Dryness in the mouth, nausea, and vomiting are also widely identified as side effects of headache medications.


Some people may experience daily headaches, although rarely. In such cases, they are expected to use medications like painkillers more often. Even though this may help people handle situations smoothly, sometimes, it may end up with the opposite results. Certain parts of the brain are associated with the control of the flow of pain messages.

Using pain relief medicines daily or nearly daily can interfere with these brain parts. The effectiveness of preventive medications may be reduced with the overuse of abortive therapies. Rebound headaches or headaches that come back are also a result of overmedication. Sometimes, over-medication may even lead to conditions that need treatment.

Safe Use Of Headache Medications

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Before starting a medication that someone needs clarification on, following the instructions of a medical practitioner is always recommended. Beginning with the lowest dose possible and avoiding frequent use are some basic steps to use any medication safely. Some medications are found to form addictive habits. Keeping away from such medicines at the start or using the least addictive ones for not-so-severe pains is also advisable. Higher doses and stronger medications should be used only under expert guidance or caution.

Alternatives To Headache Medications

At times, headaches do not require medications or mild medications only. Some people prefer not to use medications for their headaches. They may choose other methods to handle headaches. Using home remedies, treatment methods without medicines, avoiding triggers that cause headaches, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, etc., are some alternatives for medication.

Options of treatments without medication include;

Biofeedback: Where people learn to regulate certain nervous system functions.

Acupuncture: The painless method of inserting thin needles at specific points in the body to relieve pain.

Meditation: Parts of the nervous system responsible for headaches can be regulated using different meditation methods.

Some of the widely used home remedies for headaches are listed below.

  • Peppermint essential oil
  • Hot or cold compress
  • Herbal remedies include curcumin, butterbur, chamomile, etc.
  • Avoiding lights
  • Using ginger
  • Head massage

In addition to these, changing habits and diet can also help reduce the frequency of headaches. Staying hydrated, limiting the consumption of alcohol, having caffeinated drinks, getting proper sleep, etc., will also help a lot in regulating headaches.

Visiting A Healthcare Provider

Sometimes, headaches need emergency attention since they can be symptoms of severe diseases like meningitis or a stroke. These conditions can be identified by symptoms including fainting, inability to speak properly, high fever etc. Therefore, a patient must be rushed to the emergency department in situations like these. If headaches occur more frequently and are more severe than usual, it is desirable to book an appointment with a doctor.


Headaches are very common does not mean one has to live with the pain all the time. Seeking medical help whenever required will make life easy. However, a medication that works for an individual’s headache may not be effective for another person. Selecting the appropriate treatment depends on various factors, as discussed above. Therefore, before deciding on the medication for a headache, it is good to consult with a healthcare provider.