Headaches Keep Coming Back?

Dr David Rakel by Dr David Rakel

Headaches keep coming back?

Can anything be done for headaches that keep coming back?


Recurring headaches can be upsetting for the person who repeatedly experiences pain and frustrating for the health care professional who is trying to help.


There are many causes for headaches. This means that it can take time to determine what may be causing your headaches or making them worse. But take heart. With a careful, organized approach often the cause and therefore relief can be found. This handout will give you information on how you and your health care practitioner can work together to find the cause of your headaches and start you on the road to feeling better.


What should I do first?


Since you have headaches that keep coming back, you have most likely talked with your health care practitioner about the problem. But if you have not, that is the first step. The clinician will ask you questions to help determine if your headaches are from a common cause such as tension or if they could be symptoms of a more serious condition.


What else can I do with the help of my health care practitioner?


We recommend a three-step plan:


• determine if medication is causing the recurring headaches,


• identify and remove the triggers causing the headaches, and


• start therapy to prevent further headaches.


 How can I learn if medication is causing my headaches?


Identify current medication


Ironically the very medication that you started taking to treat headaches may now be causing them to recur. This type of headache is from overuse of medication. The most common medications that can cause overuse headaches are Butalbital, opioids, acetaminophen (Tylenol), caffeine and aspirin. But any medication used to relieve pain can cause the headaches. Combinations of medicine are especially likely to cause them.


Read entire handout An Integrative Approach to Recurring Headaches at University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine.


Reference: University of Wisconsin – Madison Integrative Medicine


David Rakel MD is Associate Professor at The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Rakel is the Founder and Director of the UW Integrative Medicine Program.


Dr. Rakel is board certified in family medicine, holistic medicine and sports medicine. He is the editor for the textbook Integrative Medicine, now in its third edition, and co-editor for the Textbook of Family Medicine. Dr. Rakel completed a two year fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.



Integrative Medicine Textbook of Family Medicine


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