Do you get debilitating headaches more than 15 times a month? Authors Zahid H. Bajwa, MD, and R. Joshua Wootton, MDiv, PhD, of UpToDate.com warns against relying on pain relievers as overusing such could lead to chronic daily headaches and immunity to the medicine. Furthermore, the authors counsel against taking over-the-counter medications more than nine days per month, and popping more than two doses of over-the-counter (OTC) meds per episode.
Yet if your headache attacks persist and pain relievers cannot control the pain, what else can you do? It might be time for you to consider getting preventive treatment. Preventive treatment is ideal for people who, as described by the Mayo Clinic, experience two or three incapacitating headache attacks per month. It is also ideal for people who have little to no response to OTC medications, and exhibit signs and symptoms of numbness, weakness, or prolonged aura for migraineurs. If youâ€™re suffering from tension headaches, one of the best preventive treatments includes antidepressants.
Tricyclics antidepressants (TCAs) are antidepressant medicines used primarily to prevent recurrent tension headaches and migraines. While there are several antidepressants in the market, the most ideal drugs to use for headaches are amitriptyline, nortriptyline (Pamelor), protriptyline (Vivactil), venlafaxine (Effexor), and mirtazapine (Remeron).
Antidepressants affect the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in headaches, anxiety, and appetite. By regulating the level of serotonin, physicians believe that TCAs may reduce pain perception when taken in low doses, thus diminishing the frequency and duration of headaches. It is also used to improve sleep patterns, a blessing for people whose headaches are so painful they can barely get sufficient rest.
If the pain gets too intense, it might be time to talk to your healthcare provider and discuss preventive treatments. If you are uncomfortable with using antidepressants, there are other preventive treatments that will work best for your condition.
[Photo Credit: SashaW on Flickr]