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Headache Treatment Overview

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Treating headache

Most everyday headaches will get better on their own, but you can also treat headaches at home with OTC pain medications for faster relief. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and aspirin. These should work within 30 minutes or so. If you need to take pain relievers more than twice a week, it can make headaches worse by causing rebound headaches. You should see a doctor to get a treatment plan.

How to treat a headache

There are a few strategies you can try yourself that may also help you feel better, like drinking water, taking a break from your screens, resting, and avoiding bright lights and loud noises.

It’s OK to treat a mild to moderate headache at home for about 3 days, but if your pain doesn’t improve by then, see a healthcare provider.

If you’re having chronic headaches (more than about 10 days per month), see a healthcare provider. If you have certain types of headaches, like migraines or cluster headaches, you should also consider seeing a doctor. They can prescribe medications that you can take when you get a headache or migraine.

Go to the ER if your headache is the most painful that you’ve ever had, or your headache is very severe and you also have: stiff neck, fever, confusion, changes in your vision, numbness, vomiting, or a recent head injury.

Medical tests & labs

Headaches don’t always need extensive testing. But if your doctor is concerned that there’s an underlying condition, they may recommend some tests, such as imaging tests (CT scan or MRI) or blood tests.

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All treatments for headache

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