Headaches and Migraines

The most common types of headache are migraines and tension headaches. Other types of headaches include cluster and rebound headaches.

Most people describe a tension headache as a constant, dull, achy feeling on both sides of the head, or like a band around the head. Some people who have tension headaches also have a tight feeling in their jaw or neck muscles. Tension headaches usually begin slowly and gradually. They often start in the middle of the day.

Another name for this type of headache is “stress headache.” When people say they have a stress headache, they usually mean they have a tension headache. Tension headaches may be mild or severe.

Tension headaches may be caused by the following:

  • Stress
  • Certain foods and beverages
  • Sleep problems
  • Sinus and allergy problems
  • Muscle tension, which can be caused by jaw clenching and poor posture
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Certain medicines

The most common treatments for headaches are rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. These include aspirin, acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol), ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin) and naproxen (one brand name: Aleve).

When choosing an over-the-counter pain reliever, check the label for possible side effects or interactions with other medicines you are taking. Always read and follow the directions on the label carefully. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Keep in mind that children should not take aspirin. Aspirin can cause a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome in children younger than 18 years of age.

It’s best to treat headaches when they begin and are still mild–before they get more painful. If these common treatments don’t work, talk to your family doctor. He or she can prescribe medicine that might help relieve your headaches.

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