Different types of medicine treat different types of headaches.
Tension headaches: Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, usually help. But be careful. Taking too many of these pills can cause hard-to-treat rebound headaches. If you need to take these drugs often, see your doctor. Do not give aspirin to anyone under age 19 – it raises their risk for a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Migraines: One type of drug, called triptans, is the mainstay of migraine treatment. They include eletriptan (Relpax), naratriptan (Amerge), rizatriptan (Maxalt), sumatriptan (Imitrex, Zecuity), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and others. You can take them as pills, injections, and skin patches.
Ergotamine is another drug that offers migraine relief. You can take it as a pill or as a suppository if nausea or vomiting stops you from keeping anything down. Another form of ergotamine, called dihydroergotamine (DHE 45), also treats them. You can get it as an injection or as a nasal spray.
Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also can help if you take them at the first sign of a migraine attack. NSAIDs also include ibuprofen and naproxen.
If you have three or more severe, prolonged migraines per month, your doctor may suggest you try medicine and other tactics to prevent your attacks, such as:
Blood pressure drugs like propranolol, verapamil, and others
Relaxation and biofeedback techniques
Avoiding foods that trigger your migraines
Cefaly, a small headband device that sends electrical pulses through the forehead to stimulate a nerve linked with migraines
Cerena, a small device for people who have an aura before a migraine. You hold it at the back of your head at the first sign of a headache, and it gives off a magnetic pulse that stimulates part of the brain.