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Welcome to Advil® Headache HeadquartersWelcome to Advil® Headache Headquarters

Experts at the forefront of headache management

Advil stands for fast relief. This guide was created to assist you in finding the type of headache you have according to your symptoms, taking proper action against the pain and learning how to prevent future mistakes.

Back To Top
What is a Headache?

Charles Pollack, MD, PhD, explains the different headache types and ways to relieve them.

    Back To Top
    MIGRAINE  Headache

    Migraine is a common type of headache that may occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and/or sound. A throbbing pain is usually felt on only one side of the head.


    • Lasts 4-72 hours
    • Abdominal pain
    • Loss of appetite
    • Paleness
    • Fatigue, dizziness
    • Visual disturbances such as bright, flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines (aura)


    Fight migraine pain with the power of Advil® in a liquid-filled capsule.

    Back To Top
    TENSION  Headache

    A tension headache is the most common type of primary headache. It typically involves contraction of muscles in the head or neck.


    • Typically only lasts several hours
    • Pain that affects the front, top or sides
      of the head
    • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
    • Irritability
    • Disturbed concentration
    • Mild sensitivity to light or noise

    88% of women and 69% of men get tension headaches at some point in their lifetime.

    No OTC pain reliever has been proven stronger than Advil® for the treatment of headaches.

    Back To Top
    CLUSTER  Headache

    Cluster headaches are very severe, relatively rare, and must be treated by a physician. Advil is not approved to treat cluster headaches. Cluster headaches recur in groups or cycles (clusters) and affect more men then women. They are characterized by severe, debilitating pain that suddenly appears on one side of the head.


    • Watery eyes
    • Nasal congestion or runny nose on the same side of the face
    • Restlessness, inability to get comfortable

    The ratio of males to females suffering from cluster headaches is 4.3:1.

    Headaches are among the most common pain-related conditions, with one half to three quarters of the world's adults experiencing a migraine or other type of headache in the past year.*

    Watch Charles Pollack, MD, PhD, explain the differences between headache types and find
    out what you can do to relieve your pain.

    *World Health Organization, Lifting the Burden. Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011. Geneva: World Health Organization; May 2011.

    For 25 years, patients and doctors have trusted Advil® to safely and effectively treat acute pain.

  • Overview
  • Physical Trigger

    Hunger, poor posture, eyestrain and lack of sleep can be tension headache triggers. Get adequate rest, don't skip meals and be aware of the following guidelines to help avoid poor posture and eyestrain.

    Poor posture

    • Don't slouch. This forces the body out of alignment, causing the head and neck muscles to contract. Correct your posture by sitting up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders back and head erect. Your head accounts for about 10% of your body weight; if you keep it forward or down, you overwork and stiffen the supporting muscles of the neck and upper back.
    • Don't sit too long in one position. Stretch your arms above your head; then, while keeping both arms up, alternate each arm, reaching toward the ceiling as if you were climbing a ladder. Rotate the shoulders in a circular motion—forward, then backward. Then, starting with the head erect and facing forward with the shoulders back and down, lower (don't twist) your head slowly to the right as far as it will go; then repeat to the left. Finally, rotate the head slowly in a circle—first clockwise five times and then counter-clockwise five times.
    • Don't sleep in a crooked position. This can stiffen the head and neck muscles and cause them to contract. Try sleeping in one of the following positions. The first is on your back, with a pillow supporting the curve of the small of the neck; your head should be supported so it is not higher than the neck. The second position is the fetal position: on your side, knees bent, with a small pillow between them to keep your hips straight. The side of your neck and head should be supported by a pillow, not by your shoulder. The idea is to keep the head, neck and spine aligned.


    • Read with sufficient light. If you work at a computer, however, glare from overhead lights can contribute to eye fatigue. Angle your computer monitor away from the light or use a glare screen. Take short periods of rest to avoid eye strain.
  • Physical Trigger
  • Physical Trigger

    Allergies or sensitivity to substances in our environment can cause muscle contraction or vascular headaches. Known allergens and sensitizers run the gamut from nicotine in tobacco to everyday foods and food additives. Some common foods that have been linked to headaches include cheese (except cottage cheese), chocolate, citrus, onions, eggplant, bay leaf, chili and cinnamon, and foods that are fried, fatty, pickled or processed. Coloring agents or flavor enhancers that can provoke tension or vascular headaches can be found in salami, hot dogs, bacon, ham, dairy products, beer and wine. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), the flavor enhancer sometimes used in Chinese food, can provoke headaches. Caffeine in coffee, tea, carbonated beverages and chocolate can lead to headaches if you consume an excessive amount or if you abruptly stop using it. Alcohol in wine, champagne, beer and hard liquor also can trigger headaches.

    What to do

    Carefully monitor your diet to pinpoint the exact foods that may cause your headaches. Even if a reaction may not show up for hours or days, it is possible to recognize patterns in the occurrence of your headaches. If you believe certain foods are causing a headache, eliminate them and monitor your headaches.

  • Environmental trigger
  • Psychological Triggers

    Human emotions may be a trigger for tension headaches. Reactions such as anger and psychological states like anxiety are commonly blamed.

    A path to pain relief!
    Preventive measures are key in avoiding headaches. But if you do end up with a tension headache, most doctors recommend the use of an OTC pain reliever such as Advil®, which contains ibuprofen. As with any medication, it's important to read the label before using it.

    Simply relax!
    In addition to an OTC pain reliever, relaxation techniques are a good way to reduce headache pain since they are an outlet for emotional and physical tension. Techniques range from simple exercises, such as deep breathing and brisk walking, to mind-control disciplines, such as meditation and biofeedback. Below are some tried and true methods.

    Massage loosens the “kinks” in muscles and ligaments. You can massage your own head, neck and shoulder area, though, ideally, it is most relaxing to have someone else massage you. Techniques include rubbing and kneading and applying pressure to specific areas of the body.

    Deep breathing
    This relaxation technique can be done anywhere. Take slow, deep breaths, inhaling from the diaphragm rather than from the chest. Breathe through your nose, gradually filling your lungs with oxygen. Exhale slowly and completely. Too much deep breathing can make you feel light-headed or lead to hyperventilation, so don't overdo it.

    Meditation can provide physical and emotional benefits. Ideally, meditate for one or two 20-minute sessions each day in a quiet place. There are several ways to meditate, and it's best to consult with a professional who can provide proper training techniques.

    Physical activity can reduce stress and make tension headaches less painful and less frequent. Exercise regularly: Try for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes three times a week. Stretch and work the muscles with an activity you enjoy—it can be anything from brisk walking to aerobic dancing or swimming.

    This technique teaches you to be aware of—and to control—bodily reactions, including headache pain. During biofeedback, a special machine called an electromyograph (EMG) measures the tension level in certain muscles. Progressive relaxation exercises, in which you focus on the tension in certain parts of your body and then "release" the tension in each part, are helpful in conjunction with biofeedback. Your physician can refer you to a biofeedback practitioner who can develop a specific program that meets your needs.

    Important note:
    While the minor tension headache is the most common type of headache, there are other, more serious, types, including migraine, cluster and sinus headaches, as well as headaches resulting from illness or injuries. Most headaches do not require medical attention, but there are situations when a physician should be consulted.

    Contact a physician if your headaches:

    • Occur every day or in a different pattern than usual
    • Strike suddenly and severely
    • Follow a blow to the head
    • Grow progressively more painful
    • Are initiated by physical exertion
    • Are associated with or accompanied by fever, a stiff neck, pain in the eyes or ears, swelling and soreness around the eyes and cheekbones, persistent nausea or vomiting, convulsions, loss of consciousness, mental confusion or a change in vision.
    • Are disabling in that they cause you to lose time from work or other activities
  • Psychological Triggers