Headaches explained


Headaches can vary from mild to severe. The pain can feel sharp, dull, throbbing, or aching. The type, severity, and location of the pain depend on the cause of the headache.

Most headaches do not have a serious cause, and most be treated at home.
Here is some care advice that should help. (This is intended for general information, and is not intended to be specific to your situation. You should seek personal care from your primary care provider)

Types of Headaches:

Migraine Headache:
This type of headache is called a vascular headache. It can be mildly to severely painful. People who get migraines often describe them as throbbing or pulsing. A migraine headache is often felt on just one side of the head.
You may also vomit or have an upset stomach. Some people will have visual warning signs before they get migraines.

Muscle Tension Headache:
Most headaches are caused by muscle tension.
People say the headache feels like a tight band around their head. You may feel tension down into your neck and shoulders. These headaches can be made worse by emotional stress.
These headaches are painful. There are pain medications you can take to help the pain.

Pain Medicines:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol):
Regular Strength Tylenol: Take 2 pills (650 mg) every 4-6 hours. Each pill has 325 mg of acetaminophen.
Extra Strength Tylenol: Take 2 pills (1,000 mg) every 8 hours. Each pill has 500 mg of acetaminophen.
Do not take more than (3,000 mg) of this drug per 24 hour period

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil):
Motrin and Advil: Take 2 pills (400 mg) every 6 hours. Each pill has 200 mg of ibuprofen
A second choice is to take 3 pills (600 mg) every 8 hours. DO not take MORE than 1800mg in 24 hours.

Naproxen (Aleve):
Aleve: Take 1 pill (220 mg) every 8 hours. Each pill has 220 mg of naproxen.
A second choice is to take 2 pills (440 mg) every 12 hours. DO not. TAKE more than 880mg in 24 hours

Extra Notes:
Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
Your healthcare provider might tell you to take more than what is shown above. That is because your doctor knows you and your health problems.

Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old. Acetaminophen is in many OTC and prescription drugs. It might be in more than one drug you are taking. Be careful how much you take. Too much of this drug can hurt the liver.
Caution- Acetaminophen: Do not take it if you have liver disease.
Caution- Ibuprofen and Naproxen:
Do not take ibuprofen or naproxen if you are pregnant.
Do not take these drugs if you have stomach problems or kidney disease.
Do not take these drugs for more than 7 days without checking with your health care provider.
Read and follow all package instructions.

Migraine Medication: Take your prescription migraine medicine as soon as it starts.
Rest: Lie down in a dark, quiet place and try to relax. Close your eyes and try to relax your whole body.
Cold Pack: For pain, put a cold pack or cold wet washcloth on your forehead for 20 minutes.
Stretching: Stretch and massage any tight neck muscles.

Call Your Primary care provider If:
Headache lasts more than 24 hours or your symptoms worsen

Call 911 if you are falling asleep, feeling confused, having any weakness or numbness, or having slurred speech, this is the worst headache of your life, have a fever > 100.5 or believe you are having a life threatening emergency.

Raymond Zakhari, NP
Medical House Calls in New York City

You should establish a relationship with a primary care provider who is able to learn about your normal state of health and customize your care when you are ill.

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