Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medication or recommend lifestyle changes for your headache care.
Preventive medications are used to reduce the number and severity of headaches. Acute medications are used to stop a headache as soon as possible. Rescue medications are taken when the acute treatment doesn't work.
If your doctor prescribes a medication for your headaches:
- Try to keep current with refills. Having medications on hand avoids having to scramble for refills during an acute headache attack.
- Treat headaches early and aggressively.
- Do not take immediate-relief medications for more than two days per week or else rebound headaches may occur. Your doctor may recommend that you take your preventive medications on a daily basis.
- Treat nausea aggressively. A prescription medication called Reglan (metoclopramide) is usually the best choice. Even if you do not have nausea, Reglan allows headache medications to be absorbed better, especially if taken 15 to 20 minutes before the other headache medications. Reglan should be taken at the first sign of a serious headache.
There are things you can do to lower your risk of getting a headache:
- Stick to a regular schedule. Try to eat, sleep and wake at approximately the same time each day.
- Try to identify headache triggers (food, alcohol, prolonged hunger, sleep deprivation, etc.) and avoid these triggers whenever possible.
- Learn acupressure (finger acupuncture) for headaches. It is simple and often effective for mild to moderate headaches.
- Make an effort to reduce stress in your life. Learn and practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or imagery. Biofeedback can be very helpful for headache sufferers.
Discuss associated medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and substance overuse/abuse (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine), with your doctor. Successful headache treatment requires that these associated conditions be treated effectively.