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.
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|
|Few side effects if taken as directed, although they may include: changes in blood counts and liver damage|
|Do not use in children younger than age 19 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||Ocufen||Prevention of tension headaches; migraines. Treatment of tension headache; migraines||Gastrointestinal upset, drowsiness, dizziness, vision problems, ulcers|
|Ibuprofen||Advil, Motrin IB||Treatment of tension headache; migraines||Gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, rash, liver damage|
|Ketoprofen||Actron||Prevention of tension headaches; migraines. Treatment of migraines||Gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, rash, liver damage|
|Nabumetone||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||Cambia, Cataflam, Zipsor, Zorvolex||Treatment of tension headache; migraines||Stomach upset, bloating, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of appetite|
|Ketorolac||Treatment of tension headache||Gastrointestinal upset, drowsiness, dizziness, vision problems, ulcers|
|Meclofenamate||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||Treatment of tension headache||Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nervousness, blurred vision|
|Methocarbamol||Robaxin||Treatment of tension headache||Dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, darkening of urine|
|Cyclobenzaprine HCL||Amrix||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, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) 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 blood thinners.
- Check with your doctor before taking acetaminophen if you have kidney or liver problems.