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Neurology and Neuroscience

How Headaches Are Treated

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NewYork-Presbyterian's headache specialists include neurological professionals with special training in the evaluation and treatment of headaches and facial pain. We customize treatment for each patient based on his or her type of headache, headache triggers, and other medical conditions.

man practices yoga outdoors
Some patients find that relaxation techniques help reduce the frequency of their headaches.

A change in lifestyle is the first step toward preventing headaches. This can be accomplished by:

  • Avoiding known triggers (such as certain foods, alcohol, smells, and changes in habits) that bring on your headaches.
  • Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 3-4 times weekly.
  • Keeping regular sleeping habits, with the same amount of sleep every night.
  • Eating regular meals and hydrating well to avoid hunger or dehydration.
  • Decreasing unnecessary stress, and being aware that headaches may occur after the stress is over.
  • Trying relaxation techniques, biofeedback, yoga, and meditation to decrease the effects of stress.
  • Not smoking. Smoking increases the risk of multiple health problems, including chronic headaches.
  • Tapering off caffeine-containing drinks (such as coffee, tea, and soda).
  • Maintaining an ideal body weight by decreasing food portions and increasing exercise.
  • Decreasing the excessive use of acute pain medication, to avoid medication-overuse headaches.

If prescription treatment is needed, there are migraine-specific medications used to decrease the pain and the accompanying symptoms. These medications, called "triptans," may be the only medication needed to treat the pain of occasional migraine headaches. However, if headaches are frequent, severe, or prolonged, then daily medication to prevent migraine headaches may be needed. There are many different types of daily medications that your doctor may suggest, based on your medical history.

In addition, patients with chronic headache disorders who have not responded to outpatient treatments may be eligible for intravenous therapies in our outpatient infusion centers. NewYork-Presbyterian also offers supervised detoxification programs for patients with medication-overuse headaches.

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