Top 5 best headache relief medications according to doctors

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Updated: 06.06.2024

Headaches are a common problem that many people experience. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, fatigue, a poor diet, changes in the weather, hormonal imbalances, and others. The nature, intensity, and location of headaches can vary, and they may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and ringing in the ears.

Various over-the-counter pills that can be purchased at a pharmacy are often used to alleviate headaches. However, not all of these pills are equally effective or safe for your health. Some can be addictive or cause side effects, and others may even cause allergic reactions. It is therefore important to understand which headache pills to choose and how to use them correctly.

In this article, we will discuss the 5 best headache remedies that can help you quickly and safely get rid of uncomfortable sensations. We will also explore the reasons why medications may not always be effective for headaches and provide tips on how to manage headaches caused by low blood pressure, vascular dystonia, migraines, and hangovers.

Why pills don't always work for headaches

Headache pills work in different ways to relieve pain. Some have an analgesic effect, which means they stop pain signals from reaching the brain. Others are anti-inflammatory and help reduce swelling and inflammation around blood vessels and nerves. Some tablets also have antispasmodic properties, which help relax tight muscles and blood vessels.

However, not all headaches are caused by these mechanisms. For example, if the pain is caused by low or high blood pressure, painkillers won't help. Low blood pressure is more likely to cause headaches than high blood pressure. This is because low blood pressure makes it difficult for blood to circulate through the blood vessels, which means that it doesn't deliver enough oxygen and nutrients to the brain. In high blood pressure, the pressure from the blood can damage the walls of the blood vessels.

Therefore, before taking a headache pill, it is recommended to measure your blood pressure to ensure that it is within normal limits. If your blood pressure is low, consider taking eleutherococcus, which can help to quickly and reliably increase it and relieve any pressure-related symptoms. Eleutherococcus is a natural plant with tonic, adaptogenic, and immunostimulating properties. It can improve the function of the heart, blood vessels, nervous system, and endocrine system. You can find eleutherococcus in the form of a tincture or pills at your local pharmacy.

Ranking of the top 5 best headache pills

If your blood pressure is normal and your headache continues, you can take one of the following pills, which are considered the most effective and safe for headaches. We have conducted a survey of GPs and patients' opinions, and compiled for you a ranking of the most popular and best headache pills:

  • Novigan. It is a combination drug that contains three active ingredients: ibuprofen, pitofenone and fenpiverinium bromide. Ibuprofen has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic action, and pitofenone and fenpiverinium bromide — antispasmodic. Novigan quickly relieves headache of any origin, especially associated with spasm of blood vessels or muscles. Novigan can be taken no more than 3 times a day, 1-2 tablets. Contraindications to the use of Novigan are allergy to the components of the drug, liver or kidney dysfunction, bronchial asthma, hemolytic anemia, glaucoma.
  • Spasmolgon. This is another combination drug that consists of three active components: metamizole sodium, pithophenone and fenpiverinium bromide. Spasmolgon also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects, but stronger than Novigan. Spasmolgon works well for headaches caused by stress, fatigue, weather or menstruation. Spasmolgon can be taken no more than 2 times a day, 1-2 tablets. Contraindications to the use of Spasmolgon are the same as for Novigan, as well as tachycardia, arterial hypotension, megacolon.
  • Paracetamol. It is a simple and affordable medication that has analgesic and antipyretic effects. Paracetamol is suitable for treating mild to moderate headaches, especially those associated with colds or flu. Paracetamol can be taken up to 4 times a day, 1 tablet (500 mg). Contraindications to the use of Paracetamol are allergy to the drug, liver or kidney dysfunction, alcohol dependence.
  • Citamon. This is another combined preparation, which consists of two active components: paracetamol and caffeine. Citamon has analgesic, antipyretic and tonic effects. Caffeine enhances the effect of paracetamol and relieves fatigue and drowsiness. Citamon is suitable for the treatment of headaches associated with sleep deprivation, overexertion or hangover. Citamon can be taken no more than 3 times a day, 1 tablet (500 mg paracetamol and 50 mg caffeine). Contraindications to the use of Citamon are the same as for Paracetamol, as well as hypertension, arrhythmia, peptic ulcer disease, pregnancy and lactation.
  • Ascophen. This is another combined drug that consists of three active components: acetylsalicylic acid, paracetamol and caffeine. Ascophen has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and tonic effects. Acetylsalicylic acid also thins the blood and prevents blood clots. Ascophen is good for headaches associated with runny nose, maxillary sinusitis or migraine. Ascophen can be taken no more than 3 times a day 1 tablet (200 mg acetylsalicylic acid, 200 mg paracetamol and 40 mg caffeine). Contraindications to the use of Ascophen are allergy to the components of the drug, blood clotting disorders, peptic ulcer, bronchial asthma, hypertension, arrhythmia, pregnancy and lactation.

Comparative table

For easy comparison, we have compiled a table listing the main features of the five best headache pills:

Title Composition Action Dosage Contraindications
Novigan Ibuprofen + Pitofenone + Fenpiverinium bromide Analgesic + antispasmodic 1-2 tablets not more than 3 times a day Allergies, liver, kidney, asthma, anemia, glaucoma
Spasmolgon Sodium metamizole + pithophenone + phenpyverinium bromide Analgesic + antispasmodic (intensified) 1-2 tablets not more than 2 times a day Same as for Novigan, plus tachycardia, hypotension, megacolon
Paracetamol Paracetamol Analgesic + antipyretic. 1 tablet (500 mg) not more than 4 times a day Allergies, liver, kidneys, alcohol.
Citamon Paracetamol + caffeine Analgesic + antipyretic + tonic 1 tablet (500 mg paracetamol and 50 mg caffeine) not more than 3 times a day Same as for Paracetamol, plus hypertension, arrhythmia, ulcer, pregnancy, lactation
Ascophen Acetylsalicylic acid + paracetamol + caffeine Analgesic + anti-inflammatory + antipyretic + tonic + anticoagulant 1 tablet (200 mg acetylsalicylic acid, 200 mg paracetamol and 40 mg caffeine) not more than 3 times a day Same as for Cytamon, plus blood clotting disorders, asthma

Caffeine for headaches

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, as well as some medications. It has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, increasing alertness, concentration, and mood. Caffeine also has an effect on the blood vessels in the brain, narrowing them and reducing blood flow. This can be helpful for people with headaches caused by dilated blood vessels or high blood pressure.

However, caffeine does not always help with headaches. For instance, for headaches caused by vasospasm or low blood pressure, caffeine may not help and may even make the headache worse. Additionally, caffeine can cause addiction and withdrawal symptoms. If someone regularly drinks coffee or other caffeinated beverages, they become accustomed to the effects of caffeine and need larger doses to achieve the desired effect. If they suddenly stop drinking coffee or reduce their coffee intake, they may experience headaches, irritability, fatigue, and depression.

Therefore, caffeine for headache relief should be used cautiously and in moderation. It is not advisable to drink more than 3-4 cups of coffee per day or exceed the recommended dose in tablets. Additionally, it is best to avoid drinking coffee close to bedtime or on an empty stomach.

Headaches and low blood pressure

Low blood pressure is when a person's blood pressure is below normal. The normal blood pressure is around 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), but it can vary depending on factors like age, gender, and physical activity. Low blood pressure can be either physiological (natural to a person) or pathological (caused by a disease or condition). Some common symptoms of low blood pressure include headache, weakness, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and fainting. These symptoms can be caused by the body's attempt to compensate for low blood pressure, such as by increasing heart rate or constricting blood vessels. It's important to note that low blood pressure can also be a normal variation for some people, especially athletes or those who are physically active. However, if you experience any of these symptoms and are concerned about your blood pressure, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

A low blood pressure headache is typically a persistent or dull headache that is felt throughout the entire head or in the back of the head. It can worsen with sudden movements, such as bending or lifting, and may last for several minutes to several hours.

The following measures can be taken to relieve low blood pressure headaches:

  • Drink coffee with sugar or strong black tea. These drinks contain caffeine, which increases blood pressure and improves blood circulation in the brain. However, you should not get carried away with them, as they can cause the opposite effect when taken in excess.
  • Have a chocolate bar. Chocolate contains cocoa beans, which also have a stimulating effect on the blood vessels and nervous system. In addition, chocolate boosts your mood and reduces stress, which can be the cause of headaches.
  • Drink eleutherococcus, which is fast and guaranteed to increase blood pressure and relieve pressure-related weakness. Eleutherococcus is a plant that has tonic, adaptogenic and immunostimulating effects. It improves the functioning of the heart, blood vessels, nervous and endocrine system. Eleutherococcus can be bought in a pharmacy in the form of tincture or tablets.

If the headache with low blood pressure often recurs or does not go away after taking these measures, you should see a doctor to find out the cause and prescribe treatment. You may need special medications to raise your blood pressure or correct other disorders.

Hangover headache

A hangover headache is one of the most common and unpleasant symptoms that can occur after consuming alcohol. This type of headache is often associated with dehydration, dilation of blood vessels in the brain, and metabolic disorders caused by toxins formed when alcohol is broken down in the body. The headache may be described as a pressing or throbbing sensation, and it can last for several hours or even days. The pain can be located in the entire head or in specific areas, such as the temples or forehead.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetylsalicylic acid or ibuprofen, can be taken to alleviate hangover headaches. These medications have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic properties. They help reduce inflammation and swelling around blood vessels and nerves, which are often responsible for pain in the head. NSAIDs also help lower body temperature, which may rise with a hangover. These medications can be purchased over-the-counter in tablet or powder form from a pharmacy.

However, NSAIDs are not always safe and can have side effects, especially when used frequently or for a prolonged period of time. NSAIDs can cause irritation to the stomach and intestine, leading to ulcers, bleeding, and allergies. They can also increase blood pressure and interfere with the function of the kidneys and liver. Therefore, it is important to take NSAIDs with caution and in moderation. It is not recommended to exceed a daily dose of 3-4 grams of acetylsalicylic acid or 1.2-2.4 grams of ibuprofen per day. You should avoid taking NSAIDs on an empty stomach and avoid combining them with alcohol.

Headache and vegetovascular dystonia

Vegetative dystonia is a condition that affects the autonomic nervous system, which controls the body's internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and digestive system. With this disorder, the autonomic system becomes unstable, causing it to react to stimuli in an excessive or insufficient manner. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including headaches, palpitations, changes in blood pressure, sweating, and anxiety.

Headache in vegetovascular dystonia typically has a squeezing or throbbing quality. It can occur in any part of the head, or it may spread throughout the entire head. The headache may be intermittent or constant. It can worsen with stress, changes in weather, physical or mental activity, and it may be accompanied by additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears, and other symptoms.

To relieve headaches caused by vegetovascular dystonia, it is possible to take one of the medications that we have reviewed above. However, these medications will not radically solve the problem. To treat vegetovascular dystonia, it is necessary to undergo a comprehensive examination and take vascular medications, such as Mexidol, Pantogam and Phenibut. These medications improve blood circulation in the brain, help normalize the autonomic nervous system, and relieve anxiety and depression. A good addition would be concentrated fish oil, preferably imported from Europe. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that help strengthen blood vessels, protect the brain from oxidative stress, and improve mood.

In addition, to prevent and treat vegetovascular dystonia, you need to follow a healthy lifestyle. This means:

  • Engage in regular physical activity. Physical activity strengthens the heart and blood vessels, boosts immunity and increases the production of endorphins, the happy hormones. It is recommended to engage in moderate sports such as walking, running, swimming, yoga, etc.
  • Adhere to a sleep and rest schedule. Sleep is an important factor for the recovery of the brain and the body as a whole. Lack or excess of sleep can lead to disruption of the autonomic nervous system and cause headaches. It is recommended to sleep at least 7-8 hours a day and to go to bed and get up at the same time.
  • Eating right. Food is a source of energy and nutrients for the brain and body. Improper nutrition can lead to a deficiency or excess of certain substances that affect the autonomic nervous system and cause headaches. It is recommended to eat a regular and varied diet, avoid fatty, spicy, salty and sweet foods, alcohol and caffeine. Prefer fresh vegetables, fruits, cereals, dairy products, fish and meat.
  • Reduce stress and negative emotions to prevent vegetovascular dystonia and headaches. Stress and negative emotions can be some of the main causes of these conditions. They activate the sympathetic nervous system, causing vasoconstriction, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate, as well as the release of adrenaline. This can lead to overstimulation of the brain and the body. To reduce stress and negative emotions, try engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. Aromatherapy and massage can also be helpful. It's also important to communicate with friends, family, or a professional therapist to express your feelings and concerns, rather than keeping them bottled up.

Headache and migraine

Migraine is a common chronic condition that causes severe headaches, often on one side of the head, accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual or other sensations before the headache begins. These attacks can last for several hours or even days, and the causes are not fully understood. It is thought that migraines are linked to changes in the way nerve cells and blood vessels function in the brain.

Migraine headaches are typically throbbing or sharp in nature, and they can be located in the frontal, temporal, or occipital areas of the head. They may occur intermittently or persistently, and can be exacerbated by physical or mental activity, stress, changes in weather, hormonal fluctuations, or the consumption of certain foods such as chocolate, cheese, or red wine.

For migraine headache relief, it is recommended to take one of the medications we have reviewed above. These medications may not always be effective and can cause side effects if taken frequently. Therefore, it is best to use specialized medications called triptans for migraine treatment. Triptans are a type of medicine that works by targeting specific receptors in the brain and blood vessels, helping to stop a migraine attack and reduce its symptoms. Triptans can only be purchased with a prescription from a doctor, as they are prescription-only medications. Some of the most well-known triptans include Zomig, Imitrex, and Maxalt, among others. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new medication to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your specific needs.

Let's summarize

Headache is a common complaint that can have various causes and symptoms. There are different types of pills that can help relieve it, but they have their own benefits and drawbacks. While pills can sometimes provide relief, they may not always be effective and can cause side effects. It's important to understand what type of headache you have and the factors that may be causing it. If your headache is frequent, persists after taking medication, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it's best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember, a headache can be a sign that there's something wrong with your health and shouldn't be ignored.