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Headaches: Managing a Headache


Most of the time, headaches get better or go away with home treatment and don't require a visit to a doctor. Home treatment for headaches can often help reduce how long you have pain and how severe it is. Start home treatment as soon as you can.

If your doctor has prescribed a specific treatment for your headaches, begin treatment as soon as a headache starts. Be sure to follow the doctor's instructions when you take any prescription medicine for your headache.

If you are taking headache medicine more than 2 days a week, talk with your doctor. Taking medicine too often can cause more headaches. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment for your headaches.

How do you manage a headache?

Stopping headaches

You can try several things to stop a headache after it starts.

  • Stop what you are doing, and start treatment.

    Don't wait for the headache to get worse.

  • Take your medicines exactly as your doctor prescribed.

    Carry your medicine with you so you can treat a headache as soon as you feel one starting.

  • Apply a cold, moist cloth to your forehead and temples.

    You can also use an ice pack. Put a thin cloth between the cold pack and your skin.

  • Rest in a quiet, comfortable, dark room.
  • Begin stress-relief methods.

    Do this as soon as your headache starts.

  • Massage tense muscles.

    You can focus on the muscles in your head, neck, temples, face, or jaw.

Preventing headaches

To help prevent tension headaches:

  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Keep a regular schedule for sleeping and eating.
  • Use good posture, and try to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
  • Take medicine that prevents headaches, if your doctor prescribed it.

To help prevent migraine headaches:

  • Avoid things that trigger your migraines, such as certain foods.
  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Keep a regular schedule for sleeping and eating.
  • Take medicine that prevents migraines, if your doctor prescribed it.


Current as of: December 20, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.