Headaches are often a result of acute illness, stress, lack of sleep, vision strain, menstruation, poor diet, dehydration, or alcohol or other substance use. Modifying lifestyle factors through healthy living can help eliminate many headaches.
Although rare, headaches can be the result of serious conditions, such as significant head injuries or illnesses like meningitis.
When to contact a clinician
An unusually severe headache
A headache after an injury to the head
A headache that does not go away with treatment
A headache accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, very stiff neck, rash, repeated vomiting, or problems with vision or balance
- Lay down in a dark, quiet room.
- Use heat, ice, and/or gentle stretching to relieve muscle tension.
- Get plenty of rest, drink water, and eat meals on a regular schedule.
Visit a trained specialist
Physical therapists use therapeutic exercises and manual therapy to reduce pain and restore mobility, and osteopaths also use spinal manipulation.
Gentle working of the soft tissues can be performed by a massage therapist to help with pain and restore soft tissue mobility.
- Limited use of over-the-counter pain relieving medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as directed on the package.
- Some headaches, such as migraine headaches, respond well to prescription medications designed to treat an acute headache and/or prevent frequent headaches.