Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Font Size

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.

Medication choices

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:

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.
dplink.gif Headaches: Should I Take Medicine to Prevent Migraines?

Rebound headaches

Taking medicine too often to stop a migraine can cause more headaches. These rebound headaches are different from migraine headaches. They usually start after pain medicine wears off, which leads you to take another dose. After a while, you get a headache whenever you stop taking the drug.

Talk to your doctor if you are taking headache medicine more than 2 days a week. Take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor.

1|2

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 10, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

woman receiving acupuncture
14 alternative methods for migraine relief.
woman with migraine
Get the truth about migraines.
 
headache in the bedroom
Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
desert heat
12 surprising headache triggers.
 
woman with migraine
Quiz
drinking coffee
Article
 
Migraines Headaches Basics
Article
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
 
young woman with migraine
Articles
spraying perfume
Article
 
man with a headache
Article
headache in the bedroom
Article
 

Special Sections