illustration of woman having a headache with an ice pack on her head
Illustration by Wenzdai Figueroa

Everyone experiences a headache from time to time. It’s even possible to have a headache that lasts for more than one day. There are many reasons why a headache can last a while, from hormonal changes to more serious underlying conditions.

It can be frightening for a headaches to last a long time, but most headaches are not life threatening. It is not fun when a throbbing head affects your ability to do things.

“Let’s look at what causes these headaches and how to get relief.”

If you have a throbbing head for more than one day, it is possible that you have a serious underlying condition that requires emergency medical care. If you are experiencing a problem, seek medical attention immediately.

  • A severe headaches began suddenly.
  • a migraine that has lasted several days, or even weeks
  • “There are new symptoms you haven’t experienced before with the headaches.”
  • kidney, heart, or liver disease with a headache
  • a severe or ongoing headache in pregnancy, which could indicate complications like preeclampsia
  • HIV or another immune system disorder along with a headache
  • There is a stiff neck and a headaches.

There are a lot of conditions that can cause a persistent headaches. Some of those include.

Rebound headaches

OTC pain medication can cause your head to hurt between doses, if you take it regularly. This type of headaches can recur over a day or more, and it can be hard to tell if it is a real problem or not.


Migraine can be a severe type of headache that can last for days, or even weeks, at a time. They start with a feeling of general illness that takes hold one or two days before the headache begins. Some people experience aura, or bright, flashing vision changes before the pain begins.

Then, there’s the headache itself, with symptoms that may include:

  • throbbing pain on either side of your head.
  • Behind your eyes is pain.
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • Light and sound are sensitive.
  • Sensitivity to odors and fragrances.

You may experience a feeling of exhaustion after your migraines have ended.

Headaches related to stress or mood disorders

Anxiety, stress, and mood disorders can trigger headaches that linger for more than a day. Specifically, those with panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder tend to experience prolonged headaches more often than those without.

Cervicogenic headaches

“Sometimes your headaches aren’t coming from your head. They are coming from your neck.”

In cervicogenic headaches, pain is referred to your head from an area in your neck. You may not even realize where it’s originating from. And if the underlying cause — the problem in your neck — isn’t treated, your headache won’t go away.

Cervicogenic headaches can be caused by injuries, arthritis, bone fractures, tumors, or infection. Your posture or falling asleep in an awkward position could cause a cervicogenic headache. It’s also possible that disc-related wear can also cause these types of headaches.

Concussions and other head injuries

If you’ve recently experienced a concussion or similar head injury, you could be dealing with an ongoing headache. This is called post-concussion syndrome, and it’s a mild injury to your brain caused by the initial trauma. It can last for months after a concussion — possibly up to a year.

There are symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

A variety of treatment options, including home treatments and medical care, can help relieve symptoms of a prolonged headache.

Rebound headaches

Overusing OTC pain medications can cause headaches. These headaches are known as rebound or medication over use headaches.

If you are experiencing headaches that are not going away, you can reduce the amount of OTC medications you take.

“You shouldn’t take medicine for pain for more than 15 days out of the month, and prescription pain medications shouldn’t be used for more than 10 days out of the month.”

Your doctor or pharmacist can help you with the ingredients and side effects of your medication.

If you continue to experience headaches, your doctor may be able to help. Make an appointment to talk about preventative medicine.

Ask your healthcare professional for alternative treatment options for headaches and migraine, like antidepressants for headaches caused by chronic tension.

Prevention is key because waiting until your headaches starts could keep you from getting OTC treatment.


If you want to address your migraines at home, you should build a schedule that is predictable and keeps you in a routine. It is important to stick to a regular sleep schedule and regular meals.

Exercise can help prevent migraine attacks, but be sure to warm up slowly before diving right in, as too much strenuous exercise can cause a headache.

Prescriptions containing estrogen, like the birth control pill, could also contribute to your migraine. You might need to speak with your doctor about stopping or changing those medications.

Your doctor may prescribe a medication that can prevent headaches from occurring. They may prescribe stronger pain medications that will stop your symptoms once they have begun.

Anti-nausea medication or corticosteroid treatments are sometimes prescribed by physicians for migraine symptoms as well.

Headaches related to stress or mood disorders

Work to reduce stress and promote relaxation in your environment. Self-massage or massage therapy may help ease the tension that causes ongoing headaches. You may also benefit from reducing stimuli and resting in a dark, quiet room.

Your doctor can help you address your stress, anxiety, or mood disorder through a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications that can help relieve the tension and stress causing your prolonged headaches. Some medications for anxiety also work to reduce the number or intensity of headaches.

Cervicogenic headaches

Because cervicogenic headaches can be caused by injuries or issues in the neck, the underlying cause must be addressed to relieve your headache. Your doctor will examine you to rule out other types of headaches arising from other sources, like tension headaches.

Once the cause of pain is identified, your doctor may prescribe pain medication or nerve blocks to manage pain. They may also recommend physical therapy or a therapeutic exercise routine for pain management.

Concussions and other head injuries

Post-concussion syndrome does not have a specific treatment regimen, but your doctor will work with you to address your symptoms. You can take comfort measures at home to reduce your pain.

Your doctor may prescribe stronger pain management medication for headaches or you may be advised to take OTC medication for mild pain.

Overuse of pain medication can cause headaches. If you feel you are taking too much, talk to your doctor.

Unexplained or general headaches

If you have unexplained headaches, you may be able to manage them at home through comfort measures, rest, and responsible use of medication.

Massage therapy can ease muscle tension that contributes to headaches, or you can perform self-massage techniques at home.

Managing your stress can help reduce your pain. Also, consider reducing the intensity of your exercise schedule or focusing on your form while exercising.

If your headaches persist, see your doctor. They can diagnose an underlying condition. You will be able to address your headaches with proper treatment.

Taking a few steps every day may be enough to prevent headaches from recurring. These include:

  • drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • exercising.
  • avoiding environmental events
  • Getting help for your mental health.
  • If you are premenopausal or experiencing menopause, you should seek hormonal support.
  • Reducing stress is important.

It is alarming that headaches will not go away, but they are usually not serious. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

If you have the right diagnosis and treatment, you can get relief from your headaches and return to your normal life.