You can reduce how many
headaches you get and how bad they are when you do get them. Try
- Find and avoid triggers
that cause your headaches.
- Tension Headache Triggers
- Migraine Headache Triggers
- Carry your medicine
with you so you can treat a headache right away
when you feel one starting. This is especially important
if you get migraines.
- Don't take
over-the-counter pain relievers more than 3 times a
week, because you may get
rebound headaches. These
headaches usually occur after pain medicine has worn off.
This prompts you to take another dose. After a while, you
get a headache whenever you stop taking the medicine.
- Take drugs
that cause the fewest side effects, such as
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (for
example, aspirin and ibuprofen).
regularly, eat well, and reduce stress.
with your doctor to find the best treatment for your headaches.
How do you manage a
You can try several
things to stop a headache after it starts:
- Stop what you are doing, and begin treatment.
Don't wait for the headache to get worse.
- Apply a cold, moist cloth
or ice pack to your forehead and temples.
- Rest in a quiet,
comfortable, dark room.
your medicines exactly as prescribed by your
- Begin stress-relief methods as soon as
your headache starts.
- Have a massage to relax tense muscles in
your head, neck, temples, face, or jaw.
You can do things every day to help prevent headaches:
- Find and avoid
your headache triggers by using a
headache diary (What is a PDF document?).
- Sit and stand with good posture to avoid
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Get regular sleep, eat
healthy foods at regular times, avoid alcohol and drugs,
and avoid foods that may trigger your headaches.
get too tired from hard physical activity.
- Don't take
over-the-counter pain relievers more than 3 times a week, because you may get
- Try to reduce
stress and headache pain with one or more of these treatments:
- Biofeedback is a relaxation method to help you learn to control a body
function—such as muscle tension—that you
normally don't control.
- Acupuncture involves putting very thin
needles into the skin at certain points on the body. Research shows
that acupuncture can help prevent some headaches.1, 2
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses a mild electrical current to reduce
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy or
problem-solving therapy. Counseling with
these methods can help with headaches. For more
Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking.
- Peppermint oil or menthol. Some research shows that
peppermint oil rubbed on your temples or on the tight
muscles in your head, neck, and shoulders may help relieve
Other treatments that may
help prevent migraines include:4
- Butterbur. This
herb has been shown to help prevent migraines in some people.
- Feverfew. This is an herb
that—some small studies show—may help prevent migraines in some people.
- Magnesium. Studies have found that some people with migraines have low levels
of magnesium in the brain. Taking magnesium may help prevent migraines.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2). This vitamin may help prevent migraines.
- Coenzyme Q10. This supplement worked to reduce the number of migraines some people had in a small study.
Return to Headaches: Managing a Headache
Linde K, et al. (2009). Acupuncture for tension-type headache. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).
Linde K, et al. (2009). Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).
Haghighi AB, et al. (2010). Cutaneous application of menthol 10% solution as an abortive treatment of migraine without aura: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossed-over study. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 64(4): 451–456.
Holland S, et al. (2012). Evidence-based guideline update: NSAIDs and other complementary treatments for episodic migraine prevention in adults: Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. Neurology, 78(17): 1346–1353.