Which Medicine is Best for Headache: Top Options to Relieve Pain

If there’s one thing that can ruin your day, it’s a pounding headache. They come out of nowhere and can linger for hours, making even the simplest tasks feel impossible. With so many different medications available, it can be tough to decide which one is best for your pain. So, which medicine is the best for headaches?

An unfortunate reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Every person’s body is different, which means what works for one person may not work for another. However, there are a few common medications that are widely considered effective for treating headaches.

One popular option is acetaminophen, commonly sold under the brand name Tylenol. This medication works by blocking pain signals in the brain and reducing fever. It’s known for being easy on the stomach and liver, making it a popular choice among adults and children alike. So, if you’re looking for a reliable headache medication that doesn’t come with a laundry list of side effects, acetaminophen is a great place to start.

Types of Headache

Headaches are one of the most common reasons people visit their doctors. Different types of headaches require different treatments. In order to find the best medicine for your headache, you should first identify the type of headache you have.

There are several types of headaches. Here are some of the most common types of headache:

  • Tension headache
  • Migraine headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Sinus headache

Tension headache is the most common type of headache. It is usually due to muscle tension or stress. Tension headaches often feel like a tight band around the head.

Migraine headache is a type of headache that is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Cluster headache is a rare type of headache that is characterized by severe pain on one side of the head. It is often described as a burning, stabbing, or piercing pain.

Sinus headache is a type of headache that is usually caused by sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses. Sinus headaches often cause pain in the forehead, cheeks, and nose.

Over-the-counter Medicines for Headache

Headaches are a common ailment that affects millions of people daily. While a headache can be mild and easily treatable with rest and relaxation, some headaches can be severe and require medication. If you are suffering from a headache, here are some over-the-counter medicines that you can use to relieve the pain:

  • Aspirin – Aspirin is a widely used pain reliever that is effective for headaches. It works by reducing the inflammation that causes headaches and reducing pain. It’s important to note that aspirin may not be safe for everyone, and consuming high doses of aspirin can cause stomach bleeding and other complications.
  • Ibuprofen – Ibuprofen is another common pain reliever that is used for headaches. Like aspirin, it reduces inflammation and pain. Ibuprofen is generally considered safe but can cause stomach bleeding when taken in high doses.
  • Acetaminophen – Acetaminophen is a pain reliever that is commonly used to treat headaches. It is generally considered safe and is effective for relieving mild to moderate pain. However, it is important to note that acetaminophen can be harmful to the liver if taken in high doses or combined with certain drugs.

The Best over-the-counter Medicine for Headache

The best over-the-counter medicine for your headache will depend on the type of headache you are experiencing. For instance, aspirin and ibuprofen are effective for tension headaches, while acetaminophen is better for migraines. It’s a good idea to read the label carefully and talk to your doctor before taking any medication.

Important Safety Information

While over-the-counter medicines for headaches are generally safe, it’s always a good idea to read the label and follow the dosage instructions carefully. Additionally, make sure to avoid taking multiple medications at once and talk to your doctor if you are unsure about any of the drugs you are taking.

Medication Recommended Dose Side Effects
Aspirin 325-650mg every 4-6 hours Stomach bleeding, ringing in the ears
Ibuprofen 200-400mg every 4-6 hours Stomach bleeding, headache, dizziness
Acetaminophen 500-1000mg every 4-6 hours Liver damage, skin rash

Always talk to your doctor before taking any medication.

Prescription Medicines for Headache

Headaches are one of the most common health issues faced by both adults and children. People who get headaches often try to find pain relief through various methods including over-the-counter medications and natural remedies. However, in some cases, headaches can become severe and chronic, and at that point, prescription medicines become necessary.

Prescription medicines for headaches are stronger and more effective than over-the-counter options. They can help reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches while providing longer-lasting relief. There are various types of prescription medicines for headaches, and they are prescribed based on the type of headache a patient has and its severity.

Common Prescription Medicines for Headache

  • Triptans: They are usually used to treat migraines and cluster headaches. Triptans work by narrowing blood vessels in the brain and reducing inflammation. Examples include Sumatriptan, Rizatriptan, and Zolmitriptan.
  • Abortive Medications: They are used to treat tension headache, migraines, and cluster headaches. Examples include Ergotamine and Dihydroergotamine.
  • Preventive Medications: They are used to prevent headaches from occurring. Examples include Topiramate, Valproate, and Metoprolol.

When Should You Consider Prescription Medicines for Headache?

If you suffer from frequent and severe headaches, it is advisable to seek medical advice. Your doctor may prescribe a prescription medicine to help manage your symptoms if over-the-counter medications are ineffective or if the headaches are interfering with the quality of your life.

It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking prescription medicines for headaches. This will ensure that you get the maximum benefit from the medication and avoid any side effects. Do not hesitate to report any adverse reactions to your doctor or pharmacist.


Prescription medicines for headaches can provide significant relief to those who suffer from chronic, severe headaches. However, it is important to use them only under the guidance of a doctor. By doing so, you can significantly improve your quality of life and manage your symptoms effectively.

Medication Usage Side effects
Triptans Used to treat migraines and cluster headaches Nausea, dizziness, fatigue, flushing, and numbness/tingling sensations.
Abortive Medications Used to treat tension headache, migraines, and cluster headaches Nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, and numbness/tingling sensations.
Preventive Medications Used to prevent headaches from occurring Drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and memory problems.

Always consult your healthcare provider before taking any medications.

Natural Remedies for Headache Relief

When it comes to treating headaches, natural remedies can often be just as effective as medication. They can also be a great alternative for those who prefer to avoid or limit the use of drugs. Here are some of the most popular natural remedies for headache relief:

Herbs and Supplements

  • Butterbur: This herb has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.
  • Feverfew: Another herb that can help prevent migraines and reduce their severity.
  • Magnesium: A dietary supplement that can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.


Aromatherapy involves using essential oils to help improve physical and emotional health. Certain essential oils can be especially helpful for headaches:

  • Peppermint oil: Can help relieve tension headaches when applied topically to the forehead and temples.
  • Lavender oil: Can help reduce the severity of migraines when applied topically or inhaled.
  • Eucalyptus oil: Can help relieve sinus headaches when inhaled or applied topically to the forehead and temples.


Acupressure is a technique that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to relieve pain and promote healing. It can be done by a trained practitioner or by oneself. Some acupressure points that can help relieve headaches include:

  • The third eye point: Located between the eyebrows, this point can help relieve tension headaches.
  • The temple region: Applying pressure to the temples can help relieve tension and migraine headaches.
  • The base of the skull: Massaging this area can help relieve tension headaches.


Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, so drinking enough fluids is important for preventing and relieving them. In addition to water, coconut water and sports drinks can also be effective for rehydrating the body.

Type of Fluid Recommended Amount
Water 8-10 glasses per day
Coconut water 1-2 glasses per day
Sports drinks 1-2 bottles per day

By incorporating these natural remedies into your headache relief routine, you can find relief without relying on medication.

Common Side Effects of Headache Medicines

Headache medicines can be a lifesaver when you’re dealing with intense pain, but like all medications, they can come with a range of side effects. Here are some of the most common:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Stomach upset or diarrhea
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Mood changes or depression

Understanding the Side Effects

Most of the side effects listed above are mild and go away on their own, but if you experience severe symptoms or they persist after dosing, be sure to speak with your doctor to see if a different medication is recommended. In some cases, headache medications can even worsen your headache or trigger other symptoms like tingling, numbness, or difficulty breathing.

It’s important to be aware of potential side effects and to read the instructions carefully before taking any medication. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about the medication you are taking.

Alternatives to Traditional Headache Medicines

For those looking for non-pharmaceutical approaches to relieving headaches, there are several alternatives to consider:

  • Meditation or deep breathing exercises
  • Acupuncture or massage therapy
  • Herbs and supplements like ginkgo biloba or feverfew
  • Adequate sleep, hydration, and a balanced diet

The Importance of Proper Diagnosis

Of course, one of the most important steps in determining the best course of treatment for chronic headaches is obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Headaches can have many different causes, from stress and tension to migraines or underlying medical conditions.

Type of Headache Symptoms Recommended Treatment
Migraines Intense, pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound Prescription medications like triptans or beta-blockers, or alternative treatments like acupuncture or biofeedback
Tension Headaches Dull or aching pain on both sides of the head, tightness or pressure in the forehead or neck Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, relaxation techniques, or massage therapy
Cluster Headaches Sudden onset of pain that is often described as sharp or burning, often around one eye Prescription medications like sumatriptan or verapamil, oxygen therapy, or steroid injections

If you’re unsure about the underlying cause of your headaches or your symptoms have changed, it’s best to seek medical attention to rule out any serious conditions and ensure you receive effective treatment.

Knowing When to Contact a Doctor for Headache Treatment

Headaches are a common ailment that can range from mild to severe. In most cases, they can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications or other remedies. However, there are certain situations in which it is important to contact a doctor for headache treatment. Here are six situations when you should seek medical attention for your headache:

  • Your headache is sudden and severe. If you experience a sudden, severe headache that is the worst headache of your life, seek medical attention immediately. This could be a sign of a serious condition such as a brain aneurysm or meningitis.
  • Your headache is accompanied by a fever, stiff neck, or rash. These symptoms could indicate an infection such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • Your headache is getting worse over time. If your headache is gradually getting worse over a period of days or weeks, it could be a sign of a brain tumor or other serious condition.
  • Your headache is accompanied by vision changes, numbness, or weakness. These symptoms could indicate a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
  • Your headache is triggered by exertion, coughing, or sex. These types of headaches, known as exertional headaches, can be a sign of an underlying condition such as a brain aneurysm or tumor.
  • Your headache is not responding to over-the-counter medications. If you have tried over-the-counter pain relievers and other remedies and your headache is still persistent, it may be time to see a doctor.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to determine the underlying cause of your headache and provide appropriate treatment. In some cases, they may refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist or headache specialist.

Knowing when to contact a doctor for headache treatment can help you get the care you need and prevent serious complications. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, do not hesitate to seek medical attention. Your health is too important to ignore.

Preventing Headaches Before They Start

Headaches can be debilitating and can affect your daily routine. Although there are over-the-counter medicines available to alleviate headaches, it is always better to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some tips on how to prevent headaches before they start:

  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration is one of the major causes of headaches. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during hotter months.
  • Get Enough Sleep: Sleep deprivation can cause headaches. Make sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat Regularly: Skipping meals or having irregular eating habits can cause headaches. Make sure to have regular meals with a balanced diet.

Other than the above-mentioned tips, there are some other preventive measures that can be taken:

Avoiding triggers that cause headaches can also go a long way in preventing them. Keep a journal and note down the activities or foods that trigger headaches. Once you’ve identified the trigger, try to avoid it in the future.

Trigger Preventive Measures
Bright Lights Wear sunglasses while going outside and reduce screen time on your devices
Stress Practice relaxation techniques, yoga, and meditation
Caffeine Limit caffeine intake and gradually reduce it if you are an avid caffeine consumer

Prevention is always better than cure. By implementing the above preventive measures, you can avoid headaches and have a better quality of life.

FAQs: Which medicine is best for headache?

1. What types of headaches can be treated with over-the-counter medication?
Most over-the-counter medication can treat tension headaches, migraine headaches, and headaches caused by sinus pressure.

2. What is the best over-the-counter medication for tension headaches?
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) are effective in treating tension headaches.

3. What is the best over-the-counter medication for migraine headaches?
Triptans such as sumatriptan (Imitrex) and naproxen sodium are effective in treating migraine headaches.

4. What is the best over-the-counter medication for sinus headaches?
Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can effectively treat sinus headaches.

5. Can children take over-the-counter medication for headaches?
It is recommended that children under the age of 16 do not take aspirin due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) are safe for children to take under supervision.

6. Can pregnant women take over-the-counter medication for headaches?
It is recommended that pregnant women avoid aspirin and ibuprofen during the third trimester. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy.

7. Can over-the-counter medication be addictive if used frequently for headaches?
Over-the-counter medication can cause rebound headaches if taken frequently for an extended period of time. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare provider if headaches persist.


We hope that these FAQs have helped answer your questions about which medicine is best for headaches. It is important to always read and follow the directions on the label and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns. Thanks for reading and please visit us again for more helpful information.