Migraine Headaches - Medications
Two kinds of medicines are used to treat migraines:
- Medicines to stop a migraine. These are sometimes called abortive medicines. These may be over-the-counter or prescription medicines. If you take the medicine at the first sign you're getting a migraine, you may stop the headache before it starts.
- Medicines to prevent migraines. These drugs are often called preventive medicines. You get them with a prescription. You take these every day or whenever your doctor tells you to.
Finding the right mix of medicines for you may take some time. So work closely with your doctor to try different medicines and doses.
In most cases, your doctor will first prescribe a drug that causes the fewest side effects. Drugs may be prescribed based on your type of migraine.
Medicines can help you feel better. But they can also be dangerous, especially if you don't take them the right way. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Medicines to stop a migraine
If your migraines are mild to moderate, you may need only an over-the-counter drug to stop the pain. Most doctors recommend that you try these drugs first, because they may have fewer side effects than prescription drugs. If over-the-counter drugs don't stop your headaches, your doctor may prescribe other medicine.
Your doctor may suggest that you take a mix of medicines to stop a headache. For example, you may take acetaminophen or naproxen along with a prescription medicine, such as a triptan.
Drugs used to stop a migraine include:
- Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Brand names for NSAIDs include Advil, Aleve, and Bayer. Some over-the-counter medicines (for example, Excedrin) combine acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine.
- Triptans (serotonin receptor agonists), such as sumatriptan (Imitrex) and zolmitriptan (Zomig).
- Ergotamine derivatives, such as Cafergot.
Medicines to prevent a migraine
Drugs used to prevent migraines include:
You may want to try medicine to prevent a headache if:
- You are using medicines to stop headaches more than twice a week.
- Medicines to stop migraines aren't working well for you.
- You have two or more headaches a month that keep you from doing your daily activities.
- You have uncommon migraine symptoms, such as a long period with aura or numbness during your headache.
- Headaches: Should I Take Medicine to Prevent Migraines?