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Susan asked...

Tags: Anxiety , exercise , Stress

I think i am experiencing an ongoing tension type headache. Have checked your fact sheet and it mentions Amitriptyline as a drug that may help. Having looked this drug up it sounds quite frightening with lots of potential side effects. What is your opinion on the drug and would it be wise to take or to try and cope without. What about beta blockers? My doctor mentioned both in a telephone appointment the other day. I have an actual appointment tom night. many thanks

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The Answer

The minor side-effects (the most common being dry mouth and drowsiness) usually settle with time so I would not worry so much about those. The most frightening side-effects that you have read about are rare, but as with all medications you need to weigh up the potential benefits of the drug versus the risk of these rare side-effects. In my experience these medications are very good and have helped improve many people’s lives. There is evidence that shows it can significantly reduce the frequency and duration of the headaches.

Beta-blockers are often used for migraine headaches rather than tension headaches. There would be no harm in trying them for a few weeks to see if they help your headaches before trying the amitriptyline if you prefer that approach. Both of these medications need to be taken daily for a few weeks before you will see an improvement on the headaches.

Do not forget to try making changes to your life that may be causing the headaches. Tiredness, eye strain, posture, stress, anxiety, depression, anger and hunger can all be contributors to headaches. Regular exercise can really help improve stress and tension. If you feel a headache coming on try using breathing and relaxation exercises to help abort it. Tension headaches normally come and go, rather than be 'ongoing' as you are describing. I think it is sensible that you see your doctor and make sure you have the correct diagnosis first.

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