Muscle relaxant can help treat tension headache
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Friday, March 01, 2013
3/01/13 at 4:35 AM
Dear Doctor K: I get tension headaches. Over-the-counter pain relievers help, but not completely. What else can I try?
Dear Reader: Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They cause a dull tightness or pressure in a band-like pattern across the forehead or in the back of the head. Sometimes the entire head hurts.
Tension headaches are caused by tightness in the muscles of the scalp and the back of the neck. For many people, an over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller such as ibuprofen is enough to banish the headache. But for others, OTC painkillers and even stronger prescription pain relievers don't provide relief.
Painkillers can actually turn an occasional problem into a chronic one. That's because both OTC and prescription pain relievers target only the symptom of tension headaches (pain); they don't address the underlying cause (muscle tightness). Rely too much on pain relievers, and you may find that your tension headaches gradually increase in frequency. To make matters worse, frequent use of pain relievers may make other medications less effective at relieving your headaches.
That's why targeting the root cause of tension headaches - muscle tightness - is a better strategy. A fast-acting but short-lived muscle relaxant such as carisoprodol (Soma, Vanadom) or metaxalone (Skelaxin) can loosen head and neck muscles. These drugs slow the functioning of your central nervous system, creating an overall calming effect.
So combining a muscle relaxant with a pain reliever can give good relief. Muscle relaxants work quickly, within 15 to 30 minutes. Their effects last only three to four hours, but that's enough because tension headaches rarely continue for more than a few hours. If you decide to try a muscle relaxant, be aware that it may cause drowsiness and fatigue. But if your headaches are migraine headaches, they are much less likely to respond to muscle relaxant treatments.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106