How can painkillers make tension headaches worse?

Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers and even stronger prescription pain relievers may not fully relieve tension headaches, and they may actually worsen the situation by turning an occasional problem into a chronic one. That's because both OTC and prescription pain relievers target only the symptom of tension headache (pain), without addressing the underlying cause (muscle contraction). Rely too much on pain relievers, and you may find that your tension headaches gradually increase in frequency. To make matters worse, frequent use (taking them more than two days a week) of pain relievers, especially those containing caffeine, may make preventive medications less effective at relieving your tension headaches. That's why targeting the root cause—muscle contraction—is a better strategy.

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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.