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Is there a cure for a headache?

The treatment for chronic headaches can involve non-pharmacologic measures such as:

  • acupuncture
  • stress reduction and relaxation
  • discontinuation of medications that may contribute to chronic headaches such as daily use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or narcotics
  • physical therapy, if there is an indication that neck strain could be contributing to headaches

There are many medications that are used on a daily basis to decrease the frequency of chronic headaches which comes from anti-epileptic, anti-arrhythmic and anti-depressant classes of medications.

Botox injections can sometimes be considered for chronic daily headaches as well.

If you suffer from benign headaches you are among 28 million Americans who also have this problem. While there is no universal cure for headaches, they can be prevented or controlled. It is most important first to know what type of headache you suffer from, and then to identify any type of triggers, which may be related, and to eliminated them. Depending on the type of headache, it may be treated with preventative and/or abortive medications.

Dr. Steven A. Meyers, MD
Diagnostic Radiologist

A chronic daily headache is defined as having a headache on 15 days or more per month for at least 3 months. It can be a very difficult form of headache to treat. The first step is making sure that there is not an underlying cause that needs to be treated. Next it is important to eliminate medications that may be contributing to the headache. Many medications taken for pain can cause daily headaches, and these usually need to be stopped before the headache can improve.

There are many medications used to prevent or reduce the frequency of chronic daily headaches. These include all of the medications used to prevent migraine and tension headaches, such as beta blockers, antidepressants and anti-seizure medication.

The FDA recently approved Botox injections for the prevention of chronic migraines, a form of chronic daily headaches.

 

Treatment for a chronic daily headache aims to cut the frequency of headaches so that they become intermittent and manageable. Those who aren't overusing painkillers start with a headache prevention regimen. Currently, there aren't any Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved therapies specifically designed to ease chronic daily headaches.

If your headaches are complicated by medication overuse, the first step is stopping the drugs. Doctors say going "cold turkey" (quitting abruptly) works best, but another option is to gradually wean yourself off the painkillers by cutting back a little each day. If you find the headache pain unbearable, or if you experience nausea, vomiting and severe muscle pain in the neck and shoulder areas, other medications can ease the withdrawal process.

One option is to use sumatriptan (Imitrex), usually at a dose of 25 milligrams (mg) three times a day for 10 days, or until you have one headache-free day. (Afterward, you take sumatriptan only when a moderate or severe headache develops.) Another option is to take tapered doses of prednisone to lessen headache pain. This can be done on a three- or six-day schedule, starting at 15 mg four times a day, then 10 mg and finally 5 mg. A muscle relaxant such as diazepam (Valium) may help your sore neck or shoulders. An anti-nausea medication such as metoclopramide (Reglan) will help prevent vomiting.

If you have been taking frequent high doses of medications containing opioids or barbiturates, the withdrawal process is likely to be more difficult, as these medications can cause a dependency. With barbiturates, for instance, it's best to gradually taper the medications to prevent seizures. Likewise, withdrawal from opioids requires close medical supervision and you may even need to be hospitalized briefly.

Since a headache can be a symptom of countless conditions, there is no simple answer. If a secondary headache is identified and treated, it might be possible to cure the headaches. Most attacks are due to primary headaches, and management, rather than cure, is more realistic.

The cure for a headache depends on what type of headache you are suffering from. If you are suffering from a primary headache, like migraines, there is no cure. However, if you are suffering from a secondary headache, it depends on what condition is causing your headache. Secondary headaches are caused by many different conditions.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.