4 Ways to Help Patients Treat Headaches Safely
Headache is one of the most common ailments people have. Pharmacists answer questions about headache medications almost every day. There are different ways to treat headaches. Taking medication is only one alternative. Here are some suggestions for patients.
The drugs of choice are pain relievers for simple tension headaches, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. However, if you recommend these to people, it is important to caution them about overuse, which can lead to rebound headaches.
This is a fairly common problem – between one and two percent of the population experiences such headaches each year. They are more common among women, people with chronic pain conditions, and those with depression or anxiety.
Taking the pain medication more than two to three days a week can trigger rebound headaches.
Triptans are used for migraine headaches. These include eletriptan (Relpax), naratriptan (Amerge), rizatriptan (Maxalt), sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and others. They can be taken as pills, shots, or nasal spray.
2. Avoid conditions that can trigger headaches
For some, certain foods, such as caffeine or alcohol, can set off a headache. For others, noise may cause it. Naturally, the patient needs to try and avoid such triggers. You can recommend that the patient keep a journal to help them determine if there are any specific triggers for their headaches.
In the journal, they should record when the headaches start, how often they occur, if there are any symptoms before the headache starts, where the pain is located, how long it lasts, the time of day of the headache if they occur after eating a certain food or a certain noise or certain kind of weather.
There are also some simple steps the patient can take at home to treat a headache. One is to put an ice pack on your forehead, scalp, or neck. Another is to go to a dark, quiet room. For some, caffeine reduces a headache.
3. Alternative therapies
There are other therapies available, which have also shown some degree of success in treating headaches.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can provide some relief for tension and migraine headaches. Hypnosis, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help relieve tension headaches by reducing stress. Biofeedback is another technique to control stress and headaches, as is cognitive-behavioral therapy.
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