Knowing your headache triggers can help you avoid situations that cause your headaches. A headache diary can help. When you get a headache, write down the following:
- Day and time the pain began
- What you ate and drank over the past 24 hours
- How much you slept
- What you were doing and where you were right before the pain started
- How long the headache lasted and what made it stop
Review your diary with your doctor to identify triggers or a pattern to your headaches. This can help you and your doctor create a treatment plan. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them.
Lifestyle changes that may help include:
- Use a different pillow or change sleeping positions.
- Practice good posture when reading, working, or doing other activities.
- Exercise and stretch your back, neck, and shoulders often when typing, working on computers, or doing other close work.
- Get more vigorous exercise. This is exercise that gets your heart beating fast. (Check with your health care provider about what kind of exercise is best for you.)
- Have your eyes checked. If you have glasses, use them.
- Learn and practice stress management. Some people find relaxation exercises or meditation helpful.
If you are prescribed medicine to prevent headaches or help with stress, follow instructions exactly on how to take them.
Your doctor may recommend that you take a prescription medicine every day to prevent headaches. You may want to take this medicine if:
- Over-the-counter medicines don’t work to stop your headaches.
- You’re taking drugs to stop headaches more than 3 times a week.
- You get a headache more than 15 days a month.
Medicines used to prevent tension headaches include:
- Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline.
- Seizure medicines, such as topiramate.
- Medicines that relax muscles, such as tizanidine.
- Antianxiety medicines, such as buspirone.
Botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A) is sometimes injected into the muscles in the face and head to treat headaches. In the past, doctors thought that spasms caused tension headaches. But BTX-A injections do not seem to help with symptoms of tension headaches.1, 2 And BTX-A may cause weakness of the facial muscles and may make it hard for you to swallow.