Managing Your Headaches

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Headaches, migraine and pain management helplines

When you have an aura, you may first see spots, wavy lines, or flashing lights. Your hands, arms, or face may tingle or feel numb. The aura usually starts about 30 minutes before the headache. But most people don't have auras. A doctor can usually tell if you have a migraine by asking about your symptoms and examining you. You probably will not need lab tests, but your doctor may order some if he or she thinks your symptoms are caused by another disease. You can't cure migraines.

But medicines and other treatments may help you feel better and limit how often you get migraines. At first, your doctor may want you to try an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Brand names include Advil, Aleve, Bayer, and Tylenol. Some over-the-counter medicines for example, Excedrin combine acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If these medicines don't work, your doctor can prescribe stronger medicine to stop the migraine.

Kaiser Permanente

Your doctor also may prescribe medicine to prevent migraines. You may not be able to use some medicines if you are pregnant or have other health problems, such as heart problems. If the first medicine doesn't work, ask your doctor if you can try something else.

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It may take time to find what works best for you. Some people also use other kinds of treatments, such as acupuncture. These may help reduce the pain or the number of migraines you have. Be careful when you use your migraine medicines. Taking them too often can cause you to get another headache when you stop taking the medicine. This is called a rebound headache.

If you are taking headache medicine more than 2 days a week, or if you get more than 3 headaches a month, talk to your doctor. Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health. They run in families, and experts have found a genetic link. But it isn't clear why some people get migraines and others don't.

Certain things can bring on a migraine. Having several triggers increases the chance you will get migraines. The most common symptom of a migraine headache is a throbbing pain on one side of your head. You also may have other symptoms before, during, and after a migraine. A day or two before a migraine starts, you may feel:. About 1 out of 5 people has a warning sign of a migraine called an aura.

It usually starts about 30 minutes before the headache starts. During an aura, you may:. If you have these less-common symptoms and have not had them before, call your doctor right away so that he or she can make sure you aren't having a transient ischemic attack TIA , stroke , or other serious problem. Without treatment, a migraine headache can last from 4 to 72 hours. After the headache stops, you may have muscle aches or feel very tired. These symptoms may last up to a day after your migraine ends.

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You may have one or more types of migraine headache. Each type has its own features. For example, some people get migraines with an aura. Some get them without an aura. Some women get menstrual migraines, which happen before, during, or shortly after their menstrual period. It can be hard to tell the difference between a migraine and another type of headache , such as a tension or sinus headache. You may think that you have sinus headaches. But it's more likely that they are migraine headaches if they happen often and interfere with your daily life.

Migraines can occur along with many other health problems, such as asthma or depression. More serious conditions, such as tumors or infections, can also cause migraine symptoms. But most headaches are not caused by serious health problems.

6 Steps to Relieve a Headache

You may be more likely to get migraines if you:. Call or other emergency services if:. Call your doctor now or go to the emergency room if:. Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:. Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor watch your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. Watchful waiting may be fine if you have recently been diagnosed with migraines and over-the-counter medicines are controlling your pain. Health professionals who may diagnose and treat your migraines include the following:.

If you think your headaches might be linked to depression or anxiety , talk to your doctor. Your doctor will diagnose a migraine by examining you and asking questions about your health and lifestyle. There are no tests that can prove that you have migraines. Migraines can be hard to diagnose, because their symptoms are like those of other types of headaches.

For example, many people have been diagnosed with sinus headaches when they actually have migraines. It's likely that you are having migraine headaches if they happen often and interfere with your daily life. Your doctor may use the International Headache Society's guidelines to diagnose migraines. You may be diagnosed if ALL of these are true: footnote 1. Your doctor will check your symptoms and decide if you need to have tests to find out if your headaches are caused by another health problem.

Tests may include:. You can't cure migraines, but you can use medicines and other treatments to feel better. The goal of treatment is to reduce how often you get migraines and to stop the headaches with the fewest drug side effects. Your doctor may have you try several types of medicines and may adjust the doses to manage your migraines. You can reduce how many migraines you have by finding your migraine triggers and avoiding them.

For more information on triggers, see Prevention.

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  8. Keeping a headache diary What is a PDF document? You write down when you have a headache and how bad it is, along with details such as what you ate and what you did before the headache started. You look for patterns to your headaches. This information can help you know what to avoid to prevent a migraine. For mild to moderate migraines, you may first want to try over-the-counter pain relievers that have fewer side effects and cost less than other medicines.

    But if they don't help, you may need prescription medicines. If medicines to stop a migraine don't give you enough relief, or if you're taking them more than 2 times a week, talk to your doctor about whether you should take medicines to prevent a migraine. You may want to try complementary treatments along with medicines. These may include:.

    For more information, see Other Treatment. If you decide to try one or more of these treatments, make sure your doctor knows. He or she may have advice on how to use other treatments safely. How you think can affect how you feel. So finding ways to relax and change your negative or worrisome thoughts may help prevent headaches.

    For more information, see Living With Migraine Headaches. If treatment doesn't stop your migraines, you and your doctor may make changes. You may try different medicines, a new mix of medicines, or different doses. If you have already tried several types of medicine, your doctor may want you to have tests such as an MRI or CT scan to look for any other cause for your headaches.

    It is possible to be diagnosed with migraines when you really have another type of headache. But it's more common for a person to be diagnosed with another type of headache when he or she really has migraines. It can be hard to tell the difference between migraines and other types of headaches such as sinus, tension, or cluster headaches.

    The symptoms can be the same. And you may have more than one kind of headache. Different types of headaches need different treatment. You may be able to have fewer migraines by finding out what brings on or triggers your headaches and then avoiding those triggers. Migraine triggers include certain foods and stress. Some common triggers are:.

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    Managing Your Headaches Managing Your Headaches
    Managing Your Headaches Managing Your Headaches
    Managing Your Headaches Managing Your Headaches
    Managing Your Headaches Managing Your Headaches

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