How Do I Relieve a Headache?

Reviewed on 9/8/2021

Treatment to relieve tension and migraine headaches includes pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen/Tylenol), medications (triptans, trigger point injections), rest, ice, heat, massage, biofeedback, and others.
Treatment to relieve tension and migraine headaches includes pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen/Tylenol), medications (triptans, trigger point injections), rest, ice, heat, massage, biofeedback, and others.

There are a number of different types of headaches, and relief of a headache depends on the type. The most common types of headaches include:

  • Tension headaches 
    • The most common form of headache
    • Causes pressure or tightness on both sides of the head
  • Migraine headaches
    • Often affect just one side of the head 
    • Feels like pounding or throbbing pain
  • Sinus headaches 
    • Pain and pressure in the sinus area
    • Not a medical diagnosis but a description of symptoms of headaches
    • Studies have found that more than 80% of people who have self-diagnosed or been diagnosed with sinus headaches actually had migraines or tension headaches
  • Other types of headaches that are less common include:
    • Cluster headaches, which are short but painful headaches that can occur for weeks or months at a time
    • Chronic daily headaches
    • Medication overuse headaches
    • Exercise-induced headaches

How to Get Rid of Headaches

Treatment to relieve tension and migraine headaches includes: 

Migraine headaches may also be treated with:

Treatment to relieve sinus headaches caused by sinusitis may include: 

  • Pain relievers
    • Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Acetaminophen
  • Saline nasal irrigation
  • Intranasal glucocorticoids
  • Intranasal saline spray 
  • Intranasal ipratropium bromide 
  • Oral decongestants 
  • Intranasal decongestants 
  • Antihistamines 
  • Mucolytics such as guaifenesin 
  • Antibiotics, if sinusitis is caused by bacteria (most cases of sinusitis are caused by viruses, and do not require treatment with antibiotics)

What Causes a Headache?

Tension headaches can be caused by:

Migraine headaches may be triggered by many of the same things that can trigger tension headaches. Additionally, migraines may be triggered by: 

What is called a sinus headache is usually not caused by sinus inflammation (sinusitis) but by migraines or tension headaches. Only about 3% to 5% of sinus headaches are truly caused by inflammation of the sinuses.

Other causes of sinus headache-type pain may include: 

How Is a Headache Diagnosed?

Headaches are diagnosed with a history and physical exam. The type of headache you have may be diagnosed by the type, frequency, and severity of symptoms. 

Tests used to diagnose the type or cause of the headache include: 

SLIDESHOW

16 Surprising Headache Triggers and Tips for Pain Relief See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 9/8/2021
References
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/causes-of-headaches

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/headaches-in-adults-the-basics?search=headache&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-of-headache-in-adults?search=sinus%20headache&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~89&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://www.ihateheadaches.org/what-diseases-cause-secondary-headaches

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/tension-type-headache-in-adults-acute-treatment?search=headache%20treatment%27&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acute-treatment-of-migraine-in-adults?search=headache%20treatment&source=search_result&selectedTitle=7~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=7

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/uncomplicated-acute-sinusitis-and-rhinosinusitis-in-adults-treatment?search=sinusitis%20treatment&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1#H17857310