Medication For Headaches

Talk to any 50 people you know, and the odds are that 49 of them will have had a headache at some time in their lives. It’s the most common medical complaint in the world. Fortunately, we’re learning a great deal about what to do — and what not to do — when the pain strikes.

Stephen, M.D., Neurologist & Co-Dir. Comprehensive Headache Center:
“But what’s amazing to me is that patients can look at the pictures and say, that’s me. That’s how I feel. That’s the agony I go through.”

That agony can drive people to extremes. Helene got occasional migraines for almost twenty years. To stop the pain, she took Tylenol, and lots of it. Jennine got daily tension headaches. She took aspirin.

Jennine, Chronic Daily Headache Sufferer:
“You know at first you start out taking maybe two a day, and then when that doesn’t work you take them every two hours, and –you know–before you know it you’re up to ten a day.”

Stephen, M.D.:
“And I would suspect about 70–80 percent of the people who have daily headaches overuse medication.”

Those medications can interfere with your body’s pain system, leaving you with a headache that never goes away. And it can get worse.

Stephen, M.D.:
“We’ve seen people with their stomachs cut out from bleeding. We’ve seen people with kidney failure.”

Both women were weaned off their medications and put on a preventive plan including something new in headache treatment –the anti-depressant drug Prozac.

Helene, Migraine Sufferer:
“Not only was I getting headache-free time during the day, but I was getting headache-free days.”

And Dr. Silberstein says none of his patients have had serious side effects.

Headache pain can be debilitating. But with a new arsenal of drugs, medical procedures, biofeedback techniques, and changes in lifestyle, 90 to 95-percent of people with headaches can be helped.

“There’s no reason to think that you’re crazy or that you have to put up with these things because you just don’t.”

“Yes there is treatment, yes there is proper treatment.”

“I feel like a whole new person. It’s really wonderful.”

If you get headaches on a regular basis, keep a diary. Write down things like the time of day they usually start, how long they last, what you ate or drank. It helps your doctor diagnose you properly. And if you have an unusually severe, sudden headache or one that includes weakness, numbness, or loss of vision, get help right away to rule out more serious medical problems.

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