Most people manage their headaches symptomatically.

Over-the-counter analgesics and/or non-drug strategies are useful (for more information see NPS News 79). Start with aspirin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or paracetamol in mild to moderate headaches; consider a triptan or ergot alkaloid for more severe headaches.

Read NPS News 38 for more information on medication-overuse headache.

Medication-overuse headache is associated with all headache medications, including paracetamol and NSAIDs, and can occur in all age groups. There is increased risk when these medicines are used more than twice a week for the treatment of headaches.

What non-drug treatment options are there?

Encourage self-management — identifying and avoiding trigger factors such as stress, lack of sleep, alcohol, bright lights and overwork can be helpful.1 Relaxation therapies such as massage, physical exercise and stress management can be beneficial. Acupuncture can also be useful in preventing migraines.2


  1. Rossi S, ed. eAMH [online]. Australian Medicines Handbook 2010. Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook, January 2010.
  2. Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, et al. Acupuncture for tension-type headache. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009:CD007587. [PubMed]