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Episodic Tension Headache Treatments

iHeadache Electronic Headache Diary

Most patients treat episodic tension-type headaches with over the counter pain relievers. It is generally believed that the fast acting anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and Aleve® work better than Tylenol® but benefits of these medication can vary from patient to patient. Aspirin can also work quite well it but carries a higher risk of ulcer if used excessively. In all cases, daily use of these medications may become the basis for episodic tension-type headache to turn into a daily headache caused by medication over use.

When over-the-counter medications fail, physicians commonly will use combination medications that include caffeine and short acting barbiturates to treat these headaches but these medications are potentially habit forming. Midrin, another type of combination medication, is also quite useful however none of these medications have been well studied as they came to market before the present I.H.S. system. {Cephalgia 2004;24 (Suppl 1)}  Narcotics are commonly used if the tension-type headaches are infrequent and prior medications fail.

Chronic Tension Headache Treatments

There is no acute treatment for chronic tension-type headaches. In fact, stopping the acute therapies mentioned above may be critical for the successful treatment of patients whose tension-type headaches have become chronic due to medication overuse.

Proper Diagnosis Leads To Proper Therapy

Many patients are misdiagnosed as having tension-type headaches by their physicians therefore if you have recurrent disability with your headaches, you may actually be having migraines. Establishing the correct diagnosis is the first step toward better headache therapy. When episodic tension-type headaches become more severe, then the use of patient diaries during a headache is quite important to aid a physician in making an accurate diagnosis. One study showed an unexpected 33% error rate among headache specialists in diagnosing tension type headaches.

If you are unsure of your headache type, review the formal criteria for episodic tension-type headache and migraine headache. If you are having frequent or chronic tension headaches, read about how to prevent them.