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NHS inform has more information on this condition.
Most headaches are not serious. In many cases, you can treat your headache at home.
Headache self-help guide
Complete our self-help guide to check your symptoms and find out what to do next.
How you can help your headache yourself
rest take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen drink plenty of fluids relax (if stress is the cause) take regular exercise When to get professional advice
Your local pharmacy can provide:
advice about headaches
treatments to help relieve headaches
Speak to a GP if:
treatments recommended by your pharmacist do not relieve your headache
your headache is getting worse despite taking painkillers
painful or frequent headaches affect your daily activities or cause you to miss work
Phone 111 if:
your headache does not go away and gets worse over time
your headache is triggered suddenly by coughing, laughing, sneezing, changing posture, or physical effort
You have a headache and:
a sore scalp
jaw pain while chewing
you feel weak
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They’re what we think of as normal, ‘everyday’ headaches. They feel like a constant ache that affects both sides of the head, as though a tight band is stretched around it.
Normally, tension headaches are not severe enough to prevent you doing everyday activities. They usually last for 30 minutes to several hours, but can last for several days.
What causes a tension headache?
The exact cause is unclear, but tension headaches have been linked to things such as:
How to treat a tension headache
You can usually treat tension headaches with painkillers such as
paracetamol and ibuprofen. Lifestyle changes may also help, for example: Migraines
Migraines are less common than tension headaches. They’re usually felt as a severe, throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Some people also have other symptoms, such as:
increased sensitivity to light or sound
Migraines can stop you carrying out your normal daily activities. They usually last at least a couple of hours. Some people find they need to stay in bed for days at a time.
How to treat migraines
Most people can treat their migraines with over-the-counter medication from the pharmacist.
If your migraines are severe, you may need to be prescribed stronger medication by your GP. This may be able to relieve and prevent your migraines.
Read further information about
migraines Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are a rare type of headache. They occur in clusters for a month or two at a time around the same time of year.
Cluster headaches are excruciatingly painful. They cause intense pain around one eye, and often occur with other symptoms, such as a:
watering or red eye
blocked or runny nose
Pharmacy medications don’t usually ease the symptoms of a cluster headache. Your GP can prescribe specific treatments to ease the pain and help prevent further attacks.
Medication and painkiller headaches
Some headaches are a side effect of taking a particular medication. Frequent headaches can also be caused by taking too many painkillers. This is known as a painkiller or medication-overuse headache.
A medication-overuse headache will usually get better within a few weeks once you stop taking the painkillers that are causing it. But, pain may get worse for a few days before it starts to improve.
Headaches in women are often caused by hormones, and many women notice a link with their periods. The
combined contraceptive pill, the menopause and pregnancy are also potential triggers.
You may be able to help reduce headaches associated with your menstrual cycle by:
Other causes of headaches
Headaches can also have a number of other causes, including:
drinking too much alcohol
head injury or concussion a
cold or flu temporomandibular disorders – problems affecting the ‘chewing’ muscles and the joints between the lower jaw and the base of the skull
sinusitis – inflammation of the lining of the sinuses carbon monoxide poisoning
sleep apnoea – a condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing