For the common tension headache, doctors frequently prescribe over the counter drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. When these drugs are combined with caffeine, they enhance the relieving effects of the analgesics.  It is worth repeating that these medications which have limited effectiveness become less and less useful with frequent use and come with side effects. Alternatives to drug therapy should we tried before taking an over the counter drug.  Alternative natural treatments for a headache includes any of the following: hot or cold compresses, breathing exercises, meditation, acupuncture, massage, cognitive behaviour therapy and others.  

When faced with a mind numbing headache many take a pill, but when tension headaches occur regularly we must consider the harm of frequent medication use versus the temporary relief it provides. Frequent pain medication will put you at risk of your headache developing into a chronic headache.  See my article about side effects from over the pain medication use

When OTC drugs are not enough to treat recurring tension headaches your doctor may give you a prescription for medication, such as: indomethacin, ketorolac, naproxen, opiates, or prescription-strength acetaminophen.

If painkillers are not working, you may be prescribe a muscle relaxant. Your doctor may also try an antidepressant such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs can stabilize your brain’s levels of serotonin and can help you cope with stress.  Although a patient may not be depressed, these drugs may be beneficial. Disturbed or inadequate sleep is a key factor in the selection of an antidepressant. Chronic tension-type headache may result from an underlying anxiety or depression. Changes in sleep patterns or insomnia, again, may be a factor and as such should definitely be treated.

Headaches may disappear with the use of over-the-counter analgesics and this is a good thing for some who take a pill to treat their sporadic pain. I wish to stress, however that there exists other methods to relieve pain and induce relaxation.  A stress reduction plan should be made and implemented. What this consists of is analyzing events during your week, month and even year such as holidays and find way to limit your exposure to these stressful triggers while at the same time incorporating stress relieving projects into your daily or weekly schedule.  It should take no more than 10 minutes to create a basic plan. A great way to melt away stress is a therapy session weekly.  This could be any therapy that works for you.  Exploring your creative side through painting in a class or socializing with friends, yoga also works as does playing a musical instrument.  Finding ways to relieve tension through demolition projects, kick boxing and fitness may be right for you. Incorporating more time spent in nature can also be calming. Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches you to manage pain and stress.  Psychotherapy is talk therapy that help you to recognize situations that cause you stress and come up with a plan to deal with them.  Acupuncture is a great way to reduce stress while boosting you body's immune function helping one feel more energetic and from my experience helping people sleep better.  Acupuncture has been shown to successfully treat migraines and tension headaches in numerous studies.  See supporting evidence.  Only when these natural methods fail to find relief would I recommend the use of pain medication.  Not only do these treatments work, they also increase the enjoyment in life people can experience.

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