How to Get Rid of a Headache

Headaches are the most common debilitating disorder that affects more than 15% of the adult population in the United States. While you can rely on home remedies for immediate symptom relief, there are better treatments that can help get rid of your headache more effectively by addressing the source of the pain.

So what are the best headache treatment options? Each type of headache responds differently to various treatments which is why doctors usually do a comprehensive diagnosis of your condition before recommending the appropriate solution. Some of the common headache treatments are pain medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic care, nerve blocks, intravenous infusion, and physical therapy.

Treatment Options for Relieving Headache

Frequent headaches can be a source of frustration and significantly impact your way of living. But even if it’s one of the top chronic pain disorders, a study reveals that there are a number of daily headache sufferers that have never visited a specialist for their condition. They often wait for their headache pain to go away on its own, but doing so can do more harm than good.

There are significant benefits to consulting with a doctor for your recurrent headache and other debilitating symptoms. One main advantage of seeing a headache specialist is that you can receive an accurate diagnosis and get a treatment that will address the root of your pain.

Additionally, headache specialists will not only provide excellent care for your condition but also recommend a plan that will help you manage your triggers and improve your overall quality of life. Here are some of the common treatments that our doctors at Advanced Headache Center can suggest for your pain:

1) Medications

One of the first-line treatments for headaches is prescription medication or over-the-counter painkillers. Rational polypharmacy is an approach used by most headache specialists to help treat and lessen the frequency of headaches and migraine attacks.

This normally involves the use of more than one medication under physician supervision. Some of the common headache medications that you may take are:

  • Non-steroidal inflammatory medications: This is a group of headache medications that works by decreasing the action of certain hormones responsible for causing inflammation and pain. Taking these medications in the early stage of your migraine or cluster headache attacks can help provide fast-acting relief and stop them from getting worse. Some common OTC pain reliever and NSAID medications are ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen.
  • Beta blockers: These medications help improve blood flow in your vessels and nerves to reduce the severity and frequency of your migraine headaches. Some of the common beta blockers for headache treatment and prevention are propranolol, metoprolol, and timolol.
  • Calcium channel blockers: This headache treatment works by regulating the movement of calcium ions in your blood vessels and heart cells to help improve and prevent cluster headaches.
  • Antidepressants: Another way to combat frequent tension headaches or migraine attacks is by improving the activity of serotonin and other chemicals in your brain. This can be done with the help of tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline.
  • Triptans: These medications also help regulate serotonin levels to reduce pain during sudden headaches or migraine episodes. Some of the common triptans for head pain are eletriptan, sumatriptan, rizatriptan, and naratriptan.

When taking headache medications, it’s important to monitor your condition and follow the doctor’s prescription to avoid unwanted side effects. You shouldn’t take too much of pain relievers since they may result in a rebound headache or medication overuse headache.

2) Acupuncture

You can also benefit from acupuncture sessions for headache and migraine relief. As one of the popular forms of Chinese medicine and alternative therapies, it works by increasing blood circulation and stimulating the release of pain-relieving chemicals to help manage your headache symptoms.

During the treatment, a licensed acupuncturist or doctor will insert thin needles into specific pressure points in your back or neck. This will trigger the nervous system to produce chemicals that will help improve the pain and enhance blood flow to the affected areas.

3) Chiropractic Care

A team of chiropractors can also reduce your headaches by removing some of the tension and stress on your affected nerves and muscles. One of the most common chiropractic techniques for headaches is spinal manipulation or adjustment.

During the treatment, the doctor will look for signs of irritation or tension in your spine structure and alleviate the stress on your tissues, joints, bones, and muscles. It can also stimulate better blood circulation and strengthen your back and neck muscles to minimize headache attacks. Patients with cervicogenic or tension type headache can greatly benefit from chiropractic sessions.

4) Intravenous Infusions

Another common way to relieve headaches is by getting IV therapy. This treatment involves the delivery of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals straight to the bloodstream through your veins. Most headache infusions contain magnesium which is known to help improve an acute or chronic migraine attack. IV therapy can also help enhance hydration to manage symptoms of nausea and lightheadedness.

5) Physical Therapy

Headaches that originate from musculoskeletal problems, poor posture, and spinal issues can also benefit from physical therapy. This method can help strengthen your muscles and joints to improve your mobility and decrease the frequency and severity of your migraines. A physical therapist may recommend a combination of massage, stretching exercises, and manual cervical traction to enhance your headache condition.

6) Occipital Nerve Blocks

This is a type of pain medication that is given to the occipital nerves which are located on your scalp. During this procedure, pain medicine and steroids are administered around the said nerves to block pain signals and manage the irritation or inflammation in the surrounding area. This is beneficial to patients who suffer from severe headache symptoms, migraine, cluster headache, chronic neuralgia, and other disorders in the occipital nerves.

7) Trigger Point Injections(TPI)

This headache treatment uses injections of a local anesthetic to relieve head muscle tension and eliminate the pain. This can also be administered in other areas such as the neck, shoulders, and back which can cause referred pain. Some of the common headaches that can benefit from trigger point injections are migraines, clusters, and tension types.

8) Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks

If you’re experiencing facial pain along with your headaches, you may benefit from having a sphenopalatine ganglion block procedure. This treatment involves the injection of anesthetic or numbing medication to the sphenopalatine ganglion which is a group of nerves behind the nose that often causes a chronic migraine headache.

Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block

Common Types of Headaches: Causes and Symptoms

Not all headache disorders are the same. Some headaches can occur due to overactivity of chemicals or issues with the structures in the brain, while others may be a result of underlying health conditions.

To determine the proper treatment for your head pain symptoms, it’s important to locate the source of your discomfort and assess the patterns and frequency of your headache attacks. Here’s an overview of the primary types of headaches:

1) Primary Headaches

Any dysfunction in your brain structures or overactivity of chemicals in the nerves and blood vessels can result in a primary headache. Most headaches of this type can happen suddenly and may last for a certain period of time.

They can be further categorized into three distinct types:

  • Migraine Headache: If you can feel throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, you may have a migraine. This type of disabling headache can be caused by different triggers such as stress, sleep disturbances, medications, food, hormone changes, and sensitivity to lights, sounds, or smells. It’s usually accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, pulsating ache, vision problems, and neck pain.
  • Tension Headache: A tension type headache is characterized by an uncomfortable tightening or dull pressure around your head. It can occur due to tension or over-contraction in the neck, forehead, and scalp muscles.
  • Cluster Headache: This type of headache occurs in cluster periods and causes severe pain localized on one side of the head. It may also cause other symptoms such as eye pain, facial sweating, eyelid drooping, stuffy nose, and eye redness.

2) Secondary Headaches

Any head pain that is caused by an existing disease is known as a secondary headache. A common example is sinus headaches which are a result of a sinus infection. The pain from a sinus headache may also spread to the forehead, nose bridge, and cheekbones, and may cause fever and nasal congestion. Other common causes of secondary headaches are neck or brain injuries, aneurysms, tumors, hypertension, or ear infections.

When Is A Headache A Serious Concern?

You shouldn’t let head pain go untreated for a prolonged period to avoid other complications. Although you can use any natural remedy for quick headache relief, it may not be as effective for managing other pain symptoms.

Here are some signs that you need to see a headache specialist:

  • You experience increased sensitivity to lights and sounds
  • You experience numbness or muscle weakness
  • You experience worsening head pain whenever you’re moving
  • You have persistent headaches that develop suddenly and last for more than 2 days
  • You have a high fever and experience nausea and vomiting
  • You notice drooping on one or both sides of the face
  • You notice changes to your vision
  • You experience frequent episodes of confusion or loss of consciousness

When you go to a headache doctor, they may assess your medical history and conduct special exams to identify the cause of your pain. Some of the common tests that they may request are MRI, CT scans, X-rays, eye exams, and lab tests to rule out other health conditions.

Tips to Prevent Frequent Headaches

Every person has a specific headache trigger so it’s important to identify yours so you know what to avoid and manage your head pain.

Other important reminders for reducing the recurrence of your headache attacks are:

  • Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to avoid migraines or tension headaches.
  • Limit your caffeine intake since it may worsen your head pain.
  • Learn stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga to avoid triggering your headaches.
  • Use a hot or cold compress to help relax your head and neck muscles and relieve the pain.
  • Get more exercise to increase levels of endorphin and serotonin which may help manage your headache pain.
  • Avoid missing meals and eat a healthy diet to lessen migraine or headache episodes.
  • When you’re working in front of a computer, take regular breaks to avoid digital eye strain which may lead to head pain.

Get Lasting Headache Relief at Advanced Headache Center

Don’t let your headache pain get any worse and consult a specialist to know the best way to relieve your symptoms. From medications to nerve blocks, IV therapy, and acupuncture and chiropractic care, there are plenty of safe and effective methods that will help you get immediate relief and improve your quality of life.

Advanced Headache Center is home to a team of expert doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating different types of head pain. Using a multimodal approach to headache treatment, we can help you figure out the cause of your discomfort and address your symptoms. Call us today to schedule your consultation and get a customized treatment plan for your condition.

Updated on Mar 26, 2024 by Dr. Amr Hosny (Headache Specialist) of Advanced Headache Center

Amr Hosny, MD, MBA, AQH

Dr. Hosny is an Ivy League Trained, UCNS-accredited, board-certified headache specialist who offers the latest preventive and abortive treatments to provide safe and effective head pain relief. As an active member of prominent organizations and professional societies that advance headache science, education, and management, such as the National Headache Foundation, Dr. Hosney specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of head pain disorders, including tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches, to name a few.

Dr. Hosny's reputation for enhancing headache care quality through the use of the most effective and technologically advanced treatment options for persistent primary and secondary chronic headaches has been acknowledged by Castle Connolly and Healthgrades, where he has received over 200 positive reviews. Dr. Hosny is also recognized as a distinguished New York City physician and headache specialist by New York Magazine.

More about Dr. Hosny
Advanced Headache Center 41 5th Avenue,
New York, NY 10003
(646) 763-2222