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Broadly speaking, when we talk about headaches of any kind, we’re talking about the same experience: some degree of pain felt in the head. Many of us get headaches from time to time, which are usually not cause for concern. However, if you find that your head aches are chronic rather than occasional, or if they’re especially painful or accompanied by other symptoms, it might be time to take action.

When thinking about treating your headaches, the important thing to know is that not all headaches are created equal. There are many different kinds of headache, and when it comes to treatment, one size does not fit all. It’s important to be able to tell what kind of head ache you’re experiencing so that you can find effective relief. What stop sone kind of headache might not have any impact at all on another. Learn more about the science of headaches.

Headache types & treatments

Headaches can be organized into two categories: primary and secondary. (1)

Primary headaches

These kinds of headaches are conditions in themselves and are not a result of a separate or underlying condition. Common types of primary headache include: (1)

  • Migraines
  • Cluster headaches
  • Tension-type headaches


Migraine treatment

Migraines are characterized by moderate to severe, throbbing pain, typically felt on one side of the head. This pain is often accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription treatment options for migraines, from acute migraine medications (such as Excedrin Migraine) to preventative migraine medicines.

There are also a number of alternative treatments and lifestyle changes you might want to try if you suffer from migraines. Bear in mind that every migraine sufferer’s situation is unique, so it might take a little time to figure out the treatment plan that works for you. Learn more about the various treatment options for migraines.

Cluster headache treatment

Cluster headachesare characterized by severe, excruciating pain in one side of the head (often around the eye). (1) The attacks occur in groups or “clusters” up to 8 times per day. (2, 3)

There are several options available for the treatment and prevention of cluster headaches, some of which are also used in the treatment and prevention of migraines. (3) Perhaps the biggest difference is that over-the-counter pain relievers, which can effectively treat migraines, will likely not help in the case of cluster headaches because they do not take effect quickly enough. (3,4)

There are also non-pharmaceutical treatment options you can try, most notably oxygen therapy. (4)

Learn more about cluster headaches and how to treat them.

Tension-type headache treatment

Tension-type headaches are the most common of all the headache types. These are the occasional headaches that many of us have experienced before – though they can occur chronically in some people. (5) They are typically mild to moderate in severity and are often described as a band of pain or pressure around the head. (5)

Over-the-counter pain relievers like Excedrin Tension Headache are usually sufficient treatment for occasional tension-type headaches. Daily prescription medications may be given or alternative therapies advised for the prevention of chronic tension-type headaches. (5,6)

Find out what can cause tension-type headaches and how to remedy them. Always read and follow product label.

Home remedies for headaches

The jury may be out, scientifically speaking, on how effective natural remedies for preventing and treating headaches are, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that they can be helpful for some people. Here are a few suggestions you might want to try:

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water and always carry a full bottle with you when you go out, especially in hot weather.
  • Rest up – ensure you are getting enough sleep each night and try not to over exert yourself during the day.
  • Eat healthily–maintain a nutritious diet and avoid processed foods wherever possible.
  • Use relaxation techniques – yoga and meditation can help combat stress and anxiety, which are linked to headaches. (7)
  • Apply a cold compress –place a cold ice pack on your forehead to relieve tense muscles.
  • Use essential oils – lavender oil can relieve stress and anxiety (which may lead to headaches) due to its calming effects, while peppermint oil may help with tension-type headaches.
  • Exercise regularly – when you exercise, the body releases natural pain-fighting substances called endorphins, which also help your body respond better to stress. (8)


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  1. Medical News Today. Headaches: Causes, types, and treatment. Accessed November 27, 2019. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  2. American Migraine Foundation. Understanding Cluster Headache. Accessed February 6, 2020. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Cluster Headaches. Accessed February 6, 2020. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  4. Medical News Today. Cluster headaches: Treatment, symptoms, and causes. Accessed November 27, 2019. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms Accessed November 27,2019. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  6. Mayo Clinic. Tension headache. Accessed February 6, 2020. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  7. WebMD. The Link Between Anxiety & Headaches Explained Accessed November 27,2019. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
  8. WebMD. Exercise and Depression. Accessed February 6, 2020.


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