Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Headache treatments

3-minute read

If you have a headache there are things you can do to manage or prevent the condition.

  • Try to work out what triggers your headache and avoid it. Some triggers are hormones in women, stress, diet, alcohol, too much to or too little sleep, physical exertion, bright lights and your working environment.
  • Relax and rest in a quiet, well-ventilated room. Keep the window open if possible to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Make sure the room isn’t too hot or too cold.
  • Use a cold damp cloth such as a face cloth or an ice pack on your head. You can make an ice pack from a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel. Although you can refreeze the peas as many times as you like, you must not eat the peas after they have defrosted.
  • Splash your face with cold water.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day, unless you have an existing medical condition which means this is not possible.
  • To prevent dehydration, always make sure that you drink more fluids after exercising or when the weather is hot.
  • Eat regularly to avoid your blood glucose levels dropping, as this may cause a headache.
  • Massaging your neck, shoulders, jaw or scalp can help relieve the pressure of a tension headache.
  • Regular exercise can help prevent tension headaches.
  • If you spend a lot of time sitting down, try to get up and move around for a few minutes at least once an hour. Sitting in the same position can put pressure on your neck muscles and cause headaches.
  • Try not to use headache medicines too often as frequent use can lead to ‘rebound’ headaches, causing the medicines to become less effective.
  • Try to follow a health lifestyle by eating healthily and regularly, having loess caffeine and alcohol, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, having good posture, and ensuring your environment is well lit and ventilated.

A headache diary may help you to detect headache triggers, that is, the things in your life that seem to regularly cause headaches.

Continue your usual daily activities as soon as your headache symptoms begin to clear up.

If you are in pain, get advice on which pain medicines you can take. Your pharmacist may also recommend prescription medicines which may be used for the short term treatment of a headache. Some medicines may not be suitable if you are pregnant or taking other medicines, or for children with headaches. Always follow the instructions on any medicines you take.

If you are getting a lot of headaches or concerned talk to your doctor.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your headaches, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: October 2017

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Headache and Pain Clinics - Headache Australia

Headache and pain clinics are normally located at major hospitals and may be conducted by specialist doctors or multidisciplinary teams taking a holistic approach to treatment. A referral from a general practitioner is generally required. ACT Pain Management UnitBuilding 8, Canberra HospitalYamba DriveGarran, ACT 2605 (02) 6244-3055 NEW SOUTH WALES The Combined Neurology... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Personal Management - Headache Australia

To assist you to take charge of your headache, consider the following: 1. Take responsibility for your headache Doctors, family, friends, colleagues and Headache Australia provide support but only you really know your headache and can take the action that leads to headache management. Periods between headaches represent an opportunity to learn more and develop... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Migraine Management Tips - Headache Australia

Take note: track your condition in a headache diary Its important to be organized and informed about your migraine attacks and how they impact your life. Tracking this information in a headache diary and then sharing the details with your physician will help ensure that you and your healthcare provider can put together an effective... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Headache Management - Headache Australia

Towards a Better Life Headache is a very individual condition. It is not life threatening but it can profoundly affect quality of life. Headache sufferers are uniquely placed in that they can determine factors common to their own condition, learn more about their own condition and headache in general, and develop a plan to manage... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Headache Management - Headache Australia

Towards a Better Life Headache is a very individual condition. It is not life threatening but it can profoundly affect quality of life. Headache sufferers are uniquely placed in that they can determine factors common to their own condition, learn more about their own condition and headache in general, and develop a plan to manage... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Medicines and Procedures - Pain Management - painHEALTH

Learn about the various types of medicines and procedures that are available that may be able to form part of your musculoskeletal pain management plan

Read more on painHEALTH website

Workplace Management - Headache Australia

Workplace Management Headache is still viewed as a minor ailment that does not require absence from the workplace. Many work through an attack, however those with severe attacks, especially migraine with aura, will find work impossible. Headache affects a large percentage of the Australian workforce and costs dearly in absenteeism and lost productivity. While most... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

History of Headache - Headache Australia

History of Headache Headache in Ancient Times As early as 7000 BC, signs of ancient neurosurgery were evident. Neolithic skulls show that trepanation (the removal of a segment of bone from the skull) was widely performed. Trepanation may have been performed to release demons and evil spirits from the head. Ancient man believed these spirits... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Treatment of Headache - No Absolute Cure - Headache Australia

While there is still no absolute cure for headache, there are a number of treatment options, both medications and other forms including complementary therapies. ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR MEDICAL PRACTITIONER before taking any form of treatment. (Please note-advances in medical science occur rapidly and some of this information about medications and treatment may soon be out... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Sandomigran Tablets - myDr.com.au

Sandomigran Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo