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Treating Your Migraine Headache

Types of Treatment continued...

DHE (dihydroergotamine). Unlike triptans, this has the benefit of relieving pain even if it isn't taken within 2 hours of the start of your headache. You can take it as a nasal spray or shot.

Pregnant women should not take DHE because it can cause birth defects.

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Many doctors recommend these as the go-to treatment for mild to moderate migraines.Some examples are:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diclofenac (Cambia, Voltaren)
  • Naproxen

"NSAIDs are generally preferred, as they address the inflammation of migraines," Calhoun says. Some NSAIDs are over-the-counter, while stronger ones are prescription only. NSAIDs can be taken with triptans, if triptans don't seem to be getting the job done alone.

Combination painkillers. Acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine combined into one pill are a safe option for people with blood vessel problems. And you don't need a prescription for it.

Calhoun says studies show caffeine makes pain relievers 40% more effective and may help with the absorption of other drugs. But it can also cause withdrawal and daily-use headaches.

"Caffeine is a two-edged sword," Calhoun says. "It can help an acute migraine, while making the next one more likely to occur."

Corticosteroids. Studies show that people who have hard-to-treat headaches, a history of recurring headaches, or status migrainosus -- a severe type of migraine -- can benefit from taking the steroid prednisone.

Anti-nausea medications. In addition to curbing nausea, these drugs may also help you absorb your pain medication. 

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Reviewed on January 05, 2015

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