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Tips for Taking Migraine and Headache Drugs

There are many migraine and headache medications -- and other treatments -- available. The appropriate treatment often depends on the type of headache you have.

Headache pain may need to be managed with medications. Headache drugs used to treat headache pain can be grouped into three different categories:

  • Symptomatic relief. These are drugs used to treat the headache pain or accompanying symptoms of migraines like nausea.
  • Abortive therapy. These are drugs used to stop a migraine headache.
  • Preventive therapy. These are drugs used to prevent a migraine.

Each type of medication is most effective when used in combination with other medical recommendations, such as dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise, and relaxation therapy. Another migraine and headache treatment you may want to ask your doctor about is Botox injections.

Tips for Taking Migraine and Headache Medications

You and your doctor are partners in developing, adjusting, and following an effective migraine or headache treatment plan. Make sure that you understand and share the same treatment goals as your doctor. Talk about what you expect from medications so you can know if your treatment plan is working.

Here are some general tips and guidelines:

  • Before any medication is prescribed, tell your doctor if you have any allergies. Also tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal products.
  • Know the names of your migraine and headache drugs and how they work. Know the generic and brand names, dosages, and side effects of your medications. Always keep a list of your medications with you.
  • Know what side effects to expect from your medications. Call your doctor if you experience unexpected or troubling side effects.
  • Take your medications exactly as prescribed, at the same time(s) every day. Do not stop taking or change your medications unless you first talk with your doctor. Even if you feel good, continue to take your prescribed drugs. Stopping your medications suddenly can make your condition worse.
  • Have a routine for taking your migraine and headache medications. Get a pillbox that is marked with the days of the week. Fill the pillbox at the beginning of each week to make it easier for you to remember.
  • Keep a medicine calendar and note every time you take a dose. Your prescription label tells you how much to take at each dose, but your doctor may change your dosage periodically, depending on your response to the medication. On your medication calendar, you can list any changes in your medication dosages as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Take your time. Double-check the name and dosage of all your medications before taking them.
  • Regularly fill your prescriptions and ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription. Know your pharmacy phone number, prescription number, medication name, and dose so you can easily call for refills. Try to fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy, so the pharmacist can monitor for interactions and provide proper dosing and refills.
  • Do not wait until you are completely out of migraine or headache medication before filling your prescriptions; call the pharmacy or doctor's office at least 48 hours before running out. If you have trouble getting to the pharmacy, have financial concerns, or have other problems that make it difficult for you to get your medications, let your doctor know. A social worker may be available to help you.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses to make up for the dose you missed.
  • Do not decrease your medication dosage to save money. You must take the full amount to get the full benefits. Talk with your doctor about ways you can reduce the costs of your medications.
  • If you have prescription coverage, make sure you know the terms of your policy. Remind your doctor about the type of insurance coverage you have.
  • Do not stop taking your migraine or headache medication unless your doctor tells you to. If you have concerns about your medication and how it is working, talk to your doctor.
  • Keep medications stored in their original containers. Store according to the instructions given with the prescription.
  • Check liquid medications often. If they have changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and get new ones.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter drugs or herbal therapies unless you ask your doctor first.
  • When traveling, keep your medications with you so you can take them as scheduled. On longer trips, take an extra week's supply of medications and copies of your prescriptions, in case you need to get a refill.
  • The way the body responds to migraine and headache medications may change over time, so your medications may need to be adjusted. Tell your doctor if you notice a difference in how well the treatment plan is working.
  • Keep track of drugs you have previously tried and failed, so your doctor doesn't prescribe them again. It is important to note why you stopped a medication. Sometimes people have side effects from medications. Sometimes if you haven't experienced side effects, it means you may not have been pushed high enough on a dose.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on April 19, 2012
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