This Headache is Killing Me: Natural and Nonprescription options for treating the most common headaches.

By: Dr. Cooper, The Pharmacist – The Voice of Medication – Dr. Tremain Cooper, LLC

One of the most common disorders that affect patients in the community is headaches. Headache pain can be so intense; it will literally render people unproductive. There are times people can’t get out of the bed because of the pain. It gets so bad that people miss work, school, and sometimes need emergency care because the pain is disabling. However, there is a large number of nonprescription options; if used appropriately will provide relief and alleviate the associated headache pain so people can continue living productive and active lives. One of the questions I always received from patients seeking relief from a headache is, “How do I know which headache I have and which option to choose?” The answer exists only in the characteristics of the headache and with any symptoms associated with the headache. So below I briefly discuss the different types of headaches patients experience and list some of the most common treatment strategies used to achieve relief from a headache.

Different Types of Headaches

I thought it would be a good idea to start off briefly describing the characteristics of the 5 most common types of headaches. These descriptions are critical because the signs and symptoms of each headache vary but allow us to design our doses, streamline our treatment strategies and/or make referrals for further evaluation. The 5 most common types of headaches are: tension-type headache, migraine headache, sinus headache, cluster headache, and medication-overuse headache. Note: these are not listed in any particular order.

• Tension-Type Headache
Tension headaches usually occur on both sides of the head; also extending from the top of the head to the back of the head. Most people describe these headaches as an aching pain that is squeezing and pressing. Tension headaches begin slowly and can last for a few minutes to a few days. Tension headaches leave a person’s scalp tender. Often begins as early as age 20 and is the most common of the primary headache disorders.

• Migraine Headache
Migraine headaches usually occur on one side of the head. Patients describe this headache as a throbbing sensation. Migraines just appear all of sudden and can last anywhere from a few hours to 2 or 3 days. Experiencing nausea has been associated with migraine headaches. Migraines occur mostly in women.

• Sinus Headache
Sinus headaches are usually felt in the forehead region, throughout the face, around the ears and around the jawline. Patients describe pressure behind the eyes of face; that worsens in the morning and occurs on both sides of the face. Sinus headaches are usually the result of sinus infection and/or congestion symptoms and are relieve after a few days with treatment of sinus symptoms.

• Cluster Headache
Cluster headaches usually begin suddenly with a stabbing-like pain occurring on one side of the head along with facial pain. It occurs most often right before going to bed at night. It occurs in clusters for weeks to months before going into remission for long periods of time. Cluster headaches more frequently in men.

• Medication Overuse Headache
Medication overuse headaches are “rebound headaches” caused by frequent use of headache medications. The headache is a withdrawal symptom that occurs after suddenly stopping a headache medication after using it for 3 months or longer.

Different Self-Care Treatment Options

Here is a list of the most common non-prescription treatment options patients use to relieve pain associated with the various headaches. There are so many products available in different formulations and dosage forms. There are tablets, capsules, liquids, gelcaps, suppositories, chewables, enteric-coated, immediate release, extended release, combination products, etc. Each product has a different milligram dosage. There are limits placed on the dosages to protect patients from harmful effects. There are natural products used to treat headaches symptoms. This is not a complete list. These are definitely some of the most popular. Headaches treatment are as follows:

• Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
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• Ibuprofen (Motrin®)(Advil®)
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• Naproxen (Aleve®)
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• Aspirin (Bayer®)
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• Combination Products
o Tylenol PM
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o Advil Cold & Sinus
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o Goody Powder
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• Natural Products
o Butterbur
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o Feverfew
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o Riboflavin
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o Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme q10
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o Peppermint Oil
peppermint oil
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o Magnesium
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• Acupuncture
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It’s always important to get the right dose for the right patient. There is definitely a way to determine what the right drug is for you. It’s one thing to pick up a product from the shelf; it’s another thing to pick the right product from the shelf. Although this information is a point in the right direction, your pharmacist will help you find the right product. Patients can avoid a lot of health expenditures with nonprescription medication when precision medicine tools are made available for them. Together we will alleviate those headaches.

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