Brian Carter, 41, had his first migraine in his 20s. "I worked from home, and I'd try to keep working but couldn't," he says. "I'd get nauseous. Doing anything felt painful, so I'd lie down and put a pillow over my head."
Sound familiar? If you're one of the 36 million Americans who get migraines, you probably know that the awful pain is no ordinary headache. Migraines are defined as moderate to severe pain lasting 4 to 72 hours, usually on one side of the head. The pain gets worse with exercise,...
Beta-blockers. These relax your blood vessels. You can try propranolol (Inderal, Innopran) or metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol).
Botulinum toxin (Botox). A doctor can inject small amounts around your face and scalp every 3 months to stop migraines from happening.
Calcium channel blockers. These include diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia, Tiazac) and verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan). They ease the narrowing of your blood vessels.
Tricyclic antidepressants. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep) and nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor).
Do You Need It?
You may want to consider medicine to prevent migraines if you:
Have pain that hampers your life despite treatment.
Get at least three moderate-to-severe headaches per month.
Take a lot of painkillers.
Don’t get enough relief from meds you now take.
Have side effects from your headache drugs.
Have uncommon migraine conditions like continuing aura (blurred vision or seeing spots or wavy lines).
Preventive medicine might not be right for you if:
Your headaches are controlled by anti-inflammatories like naproxen and ibuprofen.
Other health conditions keep you from taking preventive drugs.
Those drugs could mix badly with other medicines you take.
You prefer treatments that don't involve meds.
If you can't take medication or prefer not to, there’s also a device you and your doctor could consider. It's called Cefaly, and it’s the first FDA-approved machine that prevents migraines in people over 18. Worn around your forehead, this portable headband-like device gives out electrical impulses. These stimulate a nerve connected with migraines. You’ll feel a tingling sensation and should use it once a day for 20 minutes.
If You’re Pregnant
Your headaches may ease up during your second and third trimesters.
If you have severe migraines, your doctor may suggest that you first try a treatment that’s not a drug -- such as biofeedback, relaxation therapy, or stress-management training. He may also recommend a preventive drug that has the lowest risk possible.
Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking preventive medications for migraines. Together, you can decide the best approach for you.