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What Medicine Helps With Migraines

What Ingredients Should I Look For In Otc Migraine Medications

New medicine could help prevent migraines

Pain is the main symptom of a migraine. You might also feel nauseous during migraines or notice changes in your vision, like seeing blind spots or flickering lights. For a mild, moderate, or even a severe migraine, there are several ingredients in OTC migraine products that can offer you sweet relief.

When Are Opioids Or Butalbital Useful For Migraines

Your doctor may suggest an opioid if none of the treatments listed above help, or if you have bad side effects.

It is not clear if butalbital should be used at all for treating migraines. If your doctor prescribes butalbital for your migraines, ask why. And ask if there are any other drugs that would work.

Dealing With Nausea And Vomiting

Migraine attacks may cause a feeling of sickness or cause you to actually be sick . The nausea makes it harder for your body to absorb migraine tablets into your body. If you take painkillers, they may remain in your stomach and not work well if you feel sick. You may even vomit the tablets back. Tips that may help include:

  • Use soluble painkillers. These are absorbed more quickly from your stomach and are likely to work better.
  • As mentioned, one brand of diclofenac comes as a suppository. This may be useful if you usually vomit with a migraine.
  • You can take an anti-sickness medicine in addition to painkillers. A doctor may prescribe one – for example, domperidone, prochlorperazine or metoclopramide.
  • Like painkillers, anti-sickness medicines work best if you take them as soon as possible after symptoms begin.
  • An anti-sickness medicine, domperidone, is available as a suppository if you feel very sick or vomit during migraine attacks.
  • Prochlorperazine comes in a buccal form which dissolves between the gum and cheek. This can be useful if you feel sick and do not wish to swallow a tablet.

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Massage The Pain Away

A regular massage may seem like a luxury, but when a migraine strikes, it can be the best way to relive all that’s built up in your head.

Learn how to give yourself a calming and pain relieving massage, and you can prevent your migraines from growing worse, quickly. As you stretch and massage both the neck and the base of the scalp, you will stimulate blood flow and relaxation, sending the pain away from your head.

Check out Theory & Practice of Therapeutic Massage for more on how to relieve the pain of headaches and migraines through massage.

Image via Shutterstock

Treating Migraine Headaches Starts With Prevention

Migraine â Overview, causes, prevention and medication ...

Youre probably familiar with tension headaches an aching pain or pressure that is relatively mild. A migraine, on the other hand, is intense. The pain can be so incapacitating that you cant go to school or work. Its more than just a severe headache.

Over 37 million Americans suffer from migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation. One in four households has a member who suffers from one of the types of migraines. Women are three times more likely than men to experience the neurological condition, and children also can develop it.

Fortunately, its something primary care providers see frequently and are comfortable treating.

Migraine Symptoms

A migraine attack is often preceded by whats called an aura, a sensation such as a funny smell or a visual disturbance like seeing wavy lines or lights. Not all migraine sufferers experience an aura beforehand.

After the migraine begins, symptoms can include:

  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head

A migraine attack can last from a few hours to a several days. A person with symptoms for more than 15 days a month may be suffering from chronic migraines.

Migraine sufferers usually begin to experience them in their teenage years, but they can begin in childhood or middle age. Its especially important that you see a physician if you experience migraine-like symptoms later in life because it could be a sign of another illness.

What Causes Migraines?

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Medicines For Migraine When Pregnant Or Breastfeeding

Many of the medicines used to treat migraine should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

  • For relief of a migraine headache:
  • Paracetamol is the medicine most commonly used, as it is known to be safe during pregnancy.
  • Ibuprofen is sometimes used but do not take it in the last third of the pregnancy .
  • Aspirin – avoid if you are trying to conceive, early in pregnancy, in the third trimester and whilst breastfeeding.
  • Triptans – should not be taken by pregnant women at all. Triptans can be used during breastfeeding, but milk should be expressed and discarded for 12-24 hours after the dose .
  • For feeling sick and being sick – no medicines are licensed in pregnancy. However, occasionally a doctor will prescribe one ‘off licence’.
  • Medicines used for the prevention of migraine are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
  • Check with your pharmacist or doctor if you are not sure.

    Who Should Take Anti

    For many people, nausea is part of a typical migraine attack. If youâre in that boat, anti-nausea medication can help you manage your upset stomach during a migraine attack.

    And, if your migraines make you throw up, your doctor might suggest anti-nausea medicine to help you keep your medicine down, too.

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    What Natural Home Remedies And Lifestyle Changes Relieve Migraines

      Migraine patients can play a significant role in managing their headache frequency and severity.

      Keep track of when migraines occur by using a headache diary or log to track pain levels, triggers, and symptoms. In addition, patients should keep track of the migraine types they experience . This can help identify patterns that precede a migraine, as well as help identify factors that contribute to the development of the headache. Once these contributing factors are known, lifestyle modifications can lessen their impact. These modifications may include:

      • Maintain a regular schedule for eating and sleeping.
      • Avoid certain foods that might cause a migraine.
      • Keep well hydrated since dehydration has been identified as a migraine trigger for some people.
      • Exercise regularly.
    • Relaxation strategies and meditation also have been recognized as effective strategies to prevent migraines and decrease their severity.
    • Exercise and migraine

      Some people find that exercises that promote muscle relaxation can help manage the pain of migraines. Examples of types of mind-body exercises that can help encourage relaxation are:

      • Meditation

      Sequence And Combination Of Therapies

      Best Medicines For Migraine Headaches

      Stepped care within attacks is a treatment plan in which medications are added depending on patient response. Stratified care based on severity is a treatment plan in which all of the anticipated medications are given up front. Patients have improved outcomes with stratified care.

      Until we have further evidence to guide our medication combinations, treating the patient with multiple medications that have independently been found to be efficacious at the onset of his or her ED visit is recommended over stepped care .

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      When To Worry About A Headache

      You can take care of many types of headaches by yourself, and your doctor can give you medication to control most of the tougher headaches. But some headaches call for prompt medical care. Here are some warning signs for when you should worry about headaches:

      • Headaches that first develop after age 50
      • A major change in the pattern of your headaches
      • An unusually severe headache
      • Head pain that increases with coughing or movement
      • Headaches that get steadily worse
      • Changes in personality or mental function
      • Headaches that are accompanied by fever, stiff neck, confusion, decreased alertness or memory, or neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances, slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or seizures
      • Headaches that are accompanied by a painful red eye
      • Headaches that are accompanied by pain and tenderness near the temples
      • Headaches after a blow to the head
      • Headaches that prevent normal daily activities
      • Headaches that come on abruptly, especially if they wake you up
      • Headaches in patients with cancer or impaired immune systems

      Botulinum Toxin Injections To Prevent Migraine

      In July 2010 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency licensed the use of botulinum toxin injections for the prevention of migraine. This decision was based on research studies that seemed to show it to be an effective treatment at reducing the number of migraine attacks .

      Treatment consists of up to five courses of treatment with botulinum toxin injections every 12 weeks. The injections are given into muscles around the head and neck. It is not clear how this treatment may work for migraine. Botulinum toxin relaxes muscles but it may also have some sort of action to block pain signals. The theory is that these actions may have an effect of stopping a migraine headache from being triggered.

      In 2012, guidelines were issued by NICE on this treatment. NICE recommends botulinum toxin type A as a possible treatment for preventing headaches in some adults with persistent migraine. The criteria set down by NICE for people who may be considered for this treatment are:

      • If you have chronic migraine and
      • You have already tried at least three different medicine treatments to prevent your chronic migraine headaches, but these have not worked and
      • You are not taking too many painkillers or using them too often.

      Also, treatment should be stopped if:

      How to use the Yellow Card Scheme

      If you think you have had a side-effect to one of your medicines you can report this on the Yellow Card Scheme. You can do this online at

      • The side-effect.

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      What Does Targeted Therapy Mean

      Calcitonin gene-related peptide is a molecule that is synthesized in neurons . It has been implicated in different pain processes, including migraine, and functions as a vasodilator that is, it relaxes blood vessels. Once scientists identified this target molecule, they began trying to develop ways to stop it from being activated at the start of migraines, as a kind of abortive treatment. An agonist makes a molecule work more efficiently, and an antagonist blocks or reduces the molecules effect. The CGRP antagonist did work to decrease migraine pain based on certain measures, but there were some serious side effects including liver toxicity.

      Back to the drawing board.

      What Are The Treatment Options To Prevent Menstrual Migraine

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      Medications used to treat menstrual migraine are the same as those used to treat other forms of migraine. However, your doctor may recommend other treatments to be take regularly, in order to prevent or reduce the severity and frequency of menstrual migraines.

      To find out more, see the separate leaflet called Migraine Triggered by Periods.

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      Nasal Steroids And Decongestants

      Nasal steroids and decongestants indicated for chronic allergies are stimulants, and some include caffeine in their chemical makeup, which has been shown to be an on-and-off migraine trigger. These drugs promote systemic absorption, which means they enter the circulatory system, affecting the entire body. It has been shown that regular long-term use of these medications, such as intranasal corticosteroids, can be a trigger to migraines.

      One problem with nasal steroids, decongestants, and the aforementioned PPIs is that people get put on a medication and they just stay on it, even if the symptoms resolve, said Dr. Charles. Its best to use these medications intermittingly, as needed. Keep in mind, however, that a rebound reaction is possible after stopping nasal steroids and PPIs. A healthcare provider can provide guidance.

      Dr. Charles said that the use of menthol, instead of nasal steroids and decongestants, can be used to treat sinus issues and prevent migraine.

      When To Seek Professional Treatment

      If you get regular and very debilitating headaches, its important to be proactive about getting help. According to the National Institutes of Health , make sure to call 911 and seek emergency care if:

      • Your headache is worse than any youve had.
      • Youre also having problems speaking, with vision, or moving.
      • Youve lost your balance.
      • The onset of the headache is very sudden.

      If youre living with migraine attacks, its also important to be vigilant of changes or other factors that can affect your treatment. Heres a rundown of reasons to call your doctor or primary care provider:

      • Youre finding changes in your general pattern of headaches.
      • Preventive or abortive medications arent working anymore.
      • Youre experiencing side effects from the drugs youre taking.
      • You have started taking birth control.
      • You find you need pain medications three or more days a week.
      • Your headaches get worse when youre lying down or leaning over.

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      Are There Any Circumstances Where Opioids Should Be Used

      Evidence strongly suggests that opioids are not as effective as acute medications like triptans, but for certain patient groups they offer a necessary alternative option for pain relief. Patients with a history of cardiovascular disease are unable to take triptans or NSAIDs due to their side effects: for this reason, triptans and NSAIDs are contraindicated for the elderly due to their increased risk for cardiovascular disease. In those cases, opioids may be the only treatment option for relief from a severe headache.

      Pregnant women who experience frequent migraine attacks will often abstain from acute medication during pregnancy, and may be prescribed opioids under the supervision of their physician to provide occasional symptom relief. Opioid use in pregnant women must be closely monitored, and infrequent, due to the risk of passing on an opioid dependency to their unborn child.

      Stephen Silberstein, MD, FAHS is a member and past president of the American Headache Society, a professional society for doctors and other health care workers who specialize in studying and treating headache and migraine. The Societys objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders, and to share and advance the work of its members. Learn more about the American Headache Societys work and find out how you can become a member today.

      Medications For Acute And Chronic Migraines

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      The treatment of an acute migraine headache may vary from over-the-counter medicines, like acetaminophen , ibuprofen , naproxen sodium to prescription medications.


      • Triptans , may be extremely effective in treating migraines and may be prescribed to help patients treat their migraines at home. A combination of naproxen and sumatriptan is now available. Additionally, sumatriptan is now available as a patch, which delivers the medication though the skin.
      • Not every patient can take these medications, and there are specific limitations regarding how often these medications can be used.

      Other migraine treatments

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      A Word On Decongestants And Sinus Headache

      People with headaches frequently use OTC medicines containing decongestants, which are often sold to treat colds or sinus issues. Heavy advertising encourages the belief that a sinus headache is a common problem. Thus people with migraine may believe that their headaches result from sinus problems. Research shows, however, that about 90% of these people have migraine, not sinus problems. While decongestant medication offers some relief for these people, the American Migraine Foundation recommends patients use migraine-specific medications where possible.

      Drink A Small Amount Of Caffeine

      Although caffeine can cause headaches of its own in large amounts, a small dose of a beverage like coffee or soda can soothe the pain of an intense migraine.

      When you drink caffeine, it can offer pain relieving benefitsâas long as you drink just a small amount, as the Mayo Clinic notes. If you drink it right when you feel a migraine beginning to appear, it can also improve the effects of Tylenol, aspirin, and other over-the-counter pain relievers .

      Image via Shutterstock

      Whatever you choose to calm your intense migraine pain, keep track of what you eat, drink, and do when you get them. Finding the trigger to your headaches can help you avoid them in the future. Avoiding certain foods, ingredients, and activities, you can keep migraines at bay and not have to endure their awful reign.

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      Overmedicating And Rebound Headache

      People who are prone to having headaches may develop a pattern of daily or almost-daily headaches. In some people, migraine-type headache attacks may become so frequent that they finally blend together with no clear-cut beginning or end. In both of these cases, the development of more severe or frequent headaches may actually be caused from taking headache relief medications too frequently. Daily or almost daily use of over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, narcotics, barbiturates and caffeine-containing medications or prescription medications such as the triptans, appears to interfere with the brain centers that regulate the flow of pain messages to the nervous system and may make your headache worse. In addition, overmedicating interferes with the effectiveness of prescribed preventive medications.

      Rebound headaches may result from taking prescription or nonprescription pain relievers more than two days a week. If prescription or nonprescription abortives are overused, the headaches may rebound as the last dose wears off, leading you to take more and more medication and actually aggravate the pain. When the medications are no longer taken, headache pain will likely improve over a period of 6 to 12 weeks.

      Medications Used To Prevent Migraines

      How to Prevent Your Migraines

      Along with making certain lifestyle changes and working to prevent exposure to triggers, medications play a central role in migraine management. Broadly speaking, medicine for migraine can be divided into prophylactic medications that prevent and minimize attacks, and abortive medications, which manage symptoms after onset.

      Several classes of drugs are prescribed as preventive migraine therapy these are generally considered if migraines are occurring multiple times a month.

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