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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Drugs for Migraine and Headache Pain

Pain relievers are typically the first drugs recommended by doctors for migraine and headaches. Many of these medications are over-the-counter, or available without a doctor's prescription, while other headache drugs require a prescription. When taking these headache drugs, avoid excessive caffeine-containing products and other over-the-counter headache medications. Any medication containing barbiturates (butalbital) or narcotics (codeine) should be used sparingly.

Note: if symptomatic relief medications are used more than twice a week, you should see your doctor, who may prescribe preventive headache medications. Overuse of symptomatic medications can actually cause more frequent headaches or worsen headache symptoms.

Drugs for relief of migraine or headache symptoms include:

Generic Name

Brand Name

Use

Precautions

Possible Side Effects

Acetaminophen

Tylenol

Pain relief

 

Few side effects if taken as directed, although they may include: changes in blood counts and liver damage

Aspirin

Bayer Bufferin Ecotrin

Pain relief

Do not use in children younger than age 14 years due to the potential for Reye's syndrome (a life-threatening neurological condition)

Heartburn, gastrointestinal bleeding, bronchospasm or constriction that causes narrowing of the airways, anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction), ulcers

Fenoprofen

Nalfon

Prevention of tension headaches; migraines; hormone headaches

 

Nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, dizziness, drowsiness

Flurbiprofen

Ansaid

Prevention of tension headaches; migraines. Treatment of tension headache; migraines

 

Gastrointestinal upset, drowsiness, dizziness, vision problems, ulcers

Ibuprofen

Advil Motrin IB Nuprin

Treatment of tension headache; migraines

 

Gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, rash, liver damage

Ketaprofen

Actron

Prevention of tension headaches; migraines. Treatment of migraines

 

Gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, rash, liver damage

Nabumetone

Relafen

Prevention of tension headaches; migraines

 

Constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

Naproxen

Aleve

Prevention of tension headaches; hormone headaches. Treatment of migraines

 

Gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, rash, liver damage

Diclofenac

Cataflam

Treatment of tension headache; migraines

 

Stomach upset, bloating, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of appetite

Ketorolac

Toradol

Treatment of tension headache

 

Gastrointestinal upset, drowsiness, dizziness, vision problems, ulcers

Meclofenate

Meclomen

Treatment of tension headache

 

Nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, dizziness, drowsiness

Carisoprodol

Soma

Treatment of tension headache

 

Dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, headache, nervousness, skin rash, bleeding

Orphenadrine citrate

Norflex

Treatment of tension headache

 

Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nervousness, blurred vision

Methocarbamol

Robaxin

Treatment of tension headache

 

Dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, darkening of urine

Cyclobenzaprine HCL

Flexeril

Treatment of tension headache

 

Dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness

Metaxalone

Skelaxin

Treatment of tension headache

 

Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nervousness

 

Tips for Using Over-the-Counter Headache Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers have been demonstrated to be safe when used as directed. But keep the following precautions in mind:

  • Know the active ingredients in each product. Be sure to read the entire label.
  • Do not exceed the recommended dosage on the package.
  • Carefully consider how you use pain-relievers and all medications: it is easy to over-medicate yourself.
  • Check with your doctor before taking products containing aspirin (Excedrin), ibuprofen (Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) if: you have a bleeding problem; asthma; recently had surgery or dental surgery or are about to have surgery; have ulcers, kidney or liver disorders; or take any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Check with your doctor before taking acetaminophen-containing products (Tylenol) if you have kidney or liver problems.

 

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 24, 2013

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