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Coping With the Pain of Chronic Headaches

How Learning to Cope with Chronic Headaches Can Change Your Life


Updated May 24, 2009

Learning to live with chronic pain comes more naturally to some than others. In fact, being newly diagnosed with chronic pain is known to cause grief-like reactions in some people. The way you react to chronic headache pain can make or break you.

People who feel they are in control of their chronic headache pain have better treatment outcomes and a higher quality of life. The good thing is, it is never too late to learn how to cope with chronic headaches. No matter how long it has been since you were diagnosed with chronic headache pain, there are ways to make living with chronic headache pain easier.

Seek Out Support

Find someone to talk to. This could be a good friend, a counselor or someone else who suffers from chronic headache pain. There is a lot to be said about the healing effects of venting your frustrations. As anyone with chronic pain knows, frustration seems to be a never-ending process.

Your peers can offer good listening ears and can be shoulders to cry on when you need them. They can give advice on treatments such as medications or complementary and alternative treatments that have worked for them. (Of course, be sure to speak with your doctor before trying any.)

Not sure where to look for support? The About.com Chronic Pain Forum is a good place to start.

Control Your Stress

Stress is a leading cause of headache pain, and stopping it before it starts may help you avoid disaster. Whether you suffer from migraines, tension headaches or cluster headaches, stress can trigger a headache or intensify already existing headache pain.

Find ways to cope with stress, which can help stop the reaction before it begins. Some simple approaches to stress relief are deep breathing, visualization and counting to ten. You may even find it helpful to enroll in a meditation or yoga class, which can teach you how to control your reactions to day-to-day stress.

Use Medications Wisely

Take medications as prescribed by your doctor. Never exceed or short-change yourself on the dosage unless instructed to do so by your physician. This is especially true if you take regular prophylactic medication to prevent headache attacks.

Also, be careful with dietary supplements. While they may promise great results, the truth is they can be harmful if taken inappropriately. If you want to take supplements for chronic headache pain, first ask your doctor if they will interact negatively with your current medication regime.

Follow Up With Your Doctor

Over time, our bodies change. Medications that used to prevent your headaches five years ago may no longer be effective for your current chronic headache pain. Also, new medications for chronic headache pain are constantly being researched, so chances are there may be something else that will be more suitable for your pain.

Consult your doctor regularly. Discuss how your medications are working. Talk about other things you are doing to control your pain. Your doctor knows you and your condition, so keeping her in the loop can only help you stay on top of your chronic headache pain.

Don’t be afraid to try something new, especially if your old meds are causing unwanted side effects or no longer seem to work.


Douglas J. French, Kenneth A. Holroyd, Cornelia Pinell, Peter T. Malinoski, Francis O'donnell, and Kimberly R. Hill. Perceived Self-efficacy and Headache-Related Disability. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 40:8, pp 647-656.

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