Home > Health Resources > Antidepressants for Tension Headaches
View Additional Section Content
Antidepressant medicines, which are usually used to treatdepression, can be effective in preventing chronictension headaches. Antidepressants have some pain-relieving properties and may reduce how often headaches occur and how long they last. Antidepressants are also used to improve sleep problems.
Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, are the antidepressants used most often to reduce the frequency or duration of tension headaches.
Medicines to prevent tension headaches have not been well studied. The best evidence is for amitriptyline. It has been proven to reduce how often tension headaches occur and how bad they get.footnote 1If you do not respond well to amitriptyline, you may try other tricyclic antidepressants, although they may not work as well to relieve your headache.
Side effects of tricyclic antidepressants include:
Other antidepressants used to prevent tension headaches include mirtazapine (Remeron) and venlafaxine (Effexor).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisoryon antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.
Jackson JL, et al. (2010). Tricyclic antidepressants and headaches: Systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online October 20, 2010 (doi:10.1136/bmj.c5222).
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofOctober 9, 2017
Current as of:
October 9, 2017
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
2700 Clay Edwards Drive, Ste 240, North Kansas City, MO 64116