Over the counter pain medications (OTC) to stop headache include aspirin, naproxen, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and the medicines that have acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine together in combination. Many a times when you experience headache, you prefer taking over-the-counter pain medicines owing to the fact that these medicines have fewer side-effects than prescription medicines. However, you have to be always careful with the medicines you take. Read complete information and all instructions on the label. However, you cannot take OTCs for all types of headaches.

Facts to Consider

You should always remember that all headaches are not same, and therefore, OTC drugs will not be effective in all cases. The next issue with the OTC drugs is that you cannot take OTC drugs more than 3 times a week as you may get rebound headaches. Such headaches usually occur when the medicine wears off and thus you get prompted to take the next dose of the medicine – that’s how you get habituated to use OTC drugs as every time you stop taking the medicines, your headache returns.

Why you need prescription medicines?

Your doctor prescribes prescription medicines if you have been taking OTCs for some time and the drugs are not so effective in treating your headache; if you get headaches for maximum number of days in a month and to stop headaches you have taken OTCs thrice a week. In such cases, your physician will advise you to take prescription medicine every day to treat headache.

What if you have tension headache?

You can’t by yourself decide which headache you are having unless your doctor examines you and decides which drugs to prescribe. The medicines your doctor prescribes for your tension headache may have some side effects, which may last for a few days or weeks – which does not mean that you have to stop the drug. Your doctor may try several different drugs or types of drugs or combinations of drugs before the doctor finds the right kind of drug that is best for you.

Some of the prescription medicines for tension or anxiety related or depression related headache include anti-anxiety medicines, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, etc.

Therefore, your doctor prescribes you the medicines to be taken on a regular basis to prevent tension headaches. In addition to the prescription medicines you should also focus on some alternative methods of coping up with your problem. The other things that you can try besides medicines include biofeedback and cognitive behavioural therapy.

What to disclose to your doctor?

You have to ask your doctor about the effects of your drugs and how well they work to treat your headache. Next, you must disclose to your doctor about the other medicines you are taking and are supposed to take. It is very important because some medicines may cause adverse reaction in combination with the pain medicines prescribed by your doctor.


Prior to being prescribed the pain medicines, let your doctor know about all the other medicines you are taking including the supplementary (herbal or dietary supplements) or alternative medicines (homeopathy) along with the OTCs as all these medicines and supplements may cause adverse reaction with your headache medicines.

The rule of thumb or the best bet is to always consult a specialist doctor for your headaches and never take them lightly.