Medication for headache

If there were a headache remedy that would be successful for all types of headaches, a lot of people would be happy. However, there are so many different types of headaches, each with a different cause, that this is a utopia. It is possible to look separately at which headache medication could be used for the various headaches.

Go to the doctor with a headache

Headache is a common complaint that occurs in both adults and children. In more than 95% of cases, someone with a headache does not go to the doctor. Even headaches that are chronic or recurring are not a reason for most people to visit the doctor. Only 25% to 50% of migraine patients and 1 in 6 patients with tension headaches report to their GP with these complaints. Yet headache is one of the most common complaints at the doctor’s office, especially because half of the people with headaches are mainly concerned about whether it is a more serious condition, such as a tumor. In a quarter of patients with headaches who visit the GP, the main reason for the visit is the request for medication. Tension headaches and migraines are the most common types of headaches.

Symptom relief for headaches

There can be several causes for headaches, and pills often provide a good, but usually only a temporary solution. Especially if the headache is caused by chronic tension or depression, an anti-headache pill will not provide a cure. It is important to address the underlying causes, often psychological causes in the case of tension headaches.


For the majority of headache patients, any over-the-counter painkiller can provide quick, sometimes temporary, relief. This may include aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen. Severe headaches often require stronger painkillers. These headache pills must be obtained with a prescription, because they often contain a narcotic such as codeine. Sometimes when taking a headache pill with a caffeine-containing drink, the effect of the pill is enhanced by the caffeine. But too much caffeine can cause headaches.

Measures against tension headaches

Headaches that arise as a result of tense muscles can be caused by stress, but structurally adopting an incorrect posture can also cause tension headaches. A remedy for this form of headache to immediately relieve the pain is to take a painkiller. However, this does not eliminate the cause. It will therefore not be surprising if these headaches reappear over time. Investigating the cause of this headache and then drawing up a treatment plan for this headache is therefore necessary if there is regularly recurring tension headache.

Anti-migraine remedies

Migraines are another form of headache and often occur on one side of the head. An upcoming attack of migraine can be predicted if someone who suffers from it often sees flashes of light or stars. In a severe form of this headache, light and noise can be tolerated very poorly and a person prefers to crawl into bed in a dark, quiet room. Something can be done about this headache, firstly by taking into account the so-called triggers that can cause migraines in order to limit the attacks and secondly through medication. Medicines that are often prescribed for headaches in migraine patients are triptans. This pill mainly reduces the dilation of the blood vessels in the skull, which occurs during the headache phase of migraine, thereby reducing the headache. Triptans also have a positive effect on the additional symptoms of migraine, such as nausea and photo- and phonophobia, in particular light and sound anxiety.

Dependence on medication

If headaches occur regularly and the associated medication use, one must take into account the possibility of becoming dependent on headache medication. In extreme cases, drug-induced headaches may occur. This means that taking the medication will no longer reduce the headache, but that the medication will prevent the headache from getting worse. Occasionally taking paracetamol or ibrupofen will not lead to this, but what matters is regular intake. In a situation where headaches persist, it is wise to contact your doctor.