Migraine Medications

Ask any migraine sufferer: there are an infinite number of migraine medications, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. Generally most medications require a prescription, but this is not always the case.

Perhaps more importantly, migraine medications fall into three general categories:

  1. Preventative – taken on a regular basis to reduce migraine frequency, duration and/or intensity
  2. Abortive – taken during the aura or early phase of a migraine, to attempt to prevent it from snowballing into a full-blown migraine
  3. Rescue – taken anytime during an active migraine to reduce the symptoms.

All preventative and abortive medications, and most rescue medications, require a prescription. OTC medications generally fall into the rescue category, as they tend to be relieve the pain experienced during an active migraine.

Although focused exclusively on interventional, non-medication migraine treatments, Dr. Cabin works with other specialists who prescribe and manage medications, and always employs a comprehensive approach to treat migraines with Botox or possibly migraine surgery. We use state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques to help patients address migraine symptoms in a more effective and more permanent way. After an in-depth patient consultation, we will offer personalized migraine treatment recommendations.

What Migraine Medications Are OTC?

Common OTC migraine medications include medications that are commonly used for traditional headache or mild pain, including:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Advil
  • Aspirin
  • Excedrin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Motrin
  • Tylenol

The effectiveness of these OTC medications varies from person to person. This means OTC medications that work well for one migraine patient may fail to deliver the same results for another.

At The Migraine Institute, our migraine specialists strive to help patients eliminate debilitating migraines and improve their quality of life, so they require less medications to manage their migraines.  As part of our commitment to our patients, we are always happy to teach patients about our long-term migraine treatment options that have been shown to deliver safe, effective results.

What Medications are Available for Preventing Migraines?

Common preventative migraine medications include:

  • Beta-Blockers: Limit the impact of stress hormones on the heart and blood vessels. Beta-blockers include atenolol, metoprolol and nadolol.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers: Constrict or dilate blood vessels. Calcium channel blockers include diltiazem, nimodipine and verapamil.
  • Antidepressants: Help manage brain chemicals; antidepressants sometimes help increase the production of serotonin, a chemical created by nerve cells that reduces inflammation and restricts blood vessels. Antidepressants include amitriptyline, paroxetine and venlafaxine.
  • Anticonvulsants: Prevent seizures and help relax overactive nerves in the brain. Anticonvulsants include gabapentin, pregabalin and valproate.
  • Botox: Temporarily stops abnormal muscle contractions that may cause migraine pain.

What Are the Side Effects of OTC Migraine Medicines?

OTC medications are generally well-tolerated but, depending on medication, can have various side mild side effects. These include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vision problems

Before taking any OTC medicine for migraines, a migraine sufferer should consult with their primary care doctor or neurologist. In addition, a migraine sufferer should always check the active ingredients of an OTC medication and follow the proper dosage instructions.

What Prescription Migraine Medications Are Available?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specifically approved several medications for the prevention of migraines. These medications include:

  • Divalproex sodium (Depakote)
  • Propranolol
  • Timolol
  • Topiramate

Preventative migraine medications are designed to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of migraine attacks. The medications rarely help migraine sufferers completely eliminate migraine symptoms.

Because these medications require a doctor’s prescription, the associated costs are usually higher than those associated with OTC migraine treatments.

Also, much like OTC migraine medicines, prescription migraine medications offer no guarantees. A migraine sufferer may need to try several of these medications before finding one that helps alleviate migraine symptoms. In some cases, a migraine patient may discover that none of the available migraine medications delivers the optimal results.

What Are the Side Effects of Prescription Migraine Medicines?

As there are many types of prescription migraine medications, there are a large number of potential side effects, some more severe than others. Common prescription migraine medication side effects include:

  • Chest pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleepiness
  • Warm sensations

Patients who experience any of the aforementioned side effects should immediately consult with the prescribing doctor or, if serious, go to the nearest emergency room.

What Natural Remedies Are Available to Help Relieve Migraine Symptoms?

Common natural migraine remedies include:

  • B-complex vitamins
  • Feverfew leaves
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Magnesium
  • Peppermint

Although many natural migraine remedies are available, and some have been studied in official trials, it is important to note the FDA does not require clinical trials on dietary supplements. As such, there is limited evidence to highlight the effectiveness of natural remedies to help relieve migraine symptoms.

Can CBD Oil Help Prevent Migraine Pain?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance that comes from the cannabis plant and has no mind-altering effects. Some studies show that CBD oil helps reduce inflammation and arthritis pain. However, no research to date indicates CBD oil helps individuals treat migraine pain.

There are concerns about the legality of CBD oil for migraine pain, too. State laws vary relative to CBD oil products, and hemp and hemp-derived products with a THC content of less than 0.3% are legal. Meanwhile, the FDA has not approved the use of nonprescription CBD oil products to treat migraine pain. There are also no regulations related to the potency of CBD oil before marketing and sale in the United States.

A person who is considering CBD oil for migraine pain should consult with a doctor. This individual and his or her doctor can then explore migraine treatment options. In some instances, a doctor may recommend medication to help alleviate migraine pain. Or, in other cases, a doctor may suggest alternative migraine therapies.

Which Migraine Medications Are Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

Women experience an increase in estrogen during pregnancy; estrogen controls brain chemicals that can trigger headaches. Since estrogen levels commonly increase in pregnant women, migraines are often less likely to occur during pregnancy.

If a pregnant woman experiences a migraine, it is important to note that the following medications are safe to use to treat migraine pain:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Triptans
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antiemetics

Pregnant women should err on the side of caution, particularly when it comes to migraines. Therefore, pregnant women should consult with a doctor before they take a migraine medication.

Which Migraine Medications Are Safe to Use While Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding moms may worry about taking migraine medications that can affect their children. Thankfully, there are many medications that are safe for breastfeeding moms, including:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Sumatriptan

Breastfeeding moms who are uncertain about which medication to use to treat migraine pain can meet with a doctor. In doing so, breastfeeding moms can evaluate different migraine medications. Meeting with a doctor also allows a breastfeeding mom to explore ways to prevent migraines from becoming recurring problems.

Should I Take Migraine Medications to Prevent or Treat My Pain?

Each migraine patient is unique, and determines for themselves what treatments work well, and whether the side effects from these treatments are tolerable. But most migraine patients will find that the medications they take don’t work very well, or cause side effects that are sometimes worse than the migraines themselves.  At the Migraine Institute, we have a simple goal: to help migraine patients reduce or eliminate migraine pain once and for all, reducing or sometimes eliminating the need for medications.

We offer two migraine treatment options:

  • Botox: Involves a series of Botox injections to reduce muscular pressure on migraine trigger nerves.
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery: Involves the use of advanced, minimally-invasive surgery techniques to decompress and permanently remove faulty nerve signals that cause migraines.

To find out more about our migraine treatments, please contact The Migraine Institute today at 310.461.0303 or  fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.

Other Articles From Our Migraine Specialists

FDA Approves Preventative Migraine Treatment for Adults

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Aimovig, a preventative migraine medication for adults that is administered via monthly self-injections. Aimovig has been studied extensively, and to date, the medication has delivered positive results in multiple clinical trials. Yet Aimovig remains a work in progress, and there is no guarantee it ultimately will help migraine sufferers alleviate all of their symptoms, at all times. Fortunately, Dr. Jonathan Cabin of The Migraine Institute is happy to help chronic migraine patients who find that their current medications are inadequate. Dr. Cabin crafts a custom migraine treatment for each patient, and by doing so, helps patients alleviate their migraine pain.

Is There a Link Between Riboflavin and Migraines?

Riboflavin is a B vitamin that may help reduce the frequency of migraine-related headaches in adults. It is available in a wide range of foods – everything from poultry to quinoa – and is commonly used in multivitamins. Additionally, riboflavin tablets are available that can be taken as part of a regular diet. For those who are considering riboflavin or other migraine treatments, it often helps to consult with a healthcare professional. That way, an individual can work with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action to treat migraine pain.

Migraines and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Pregnant women sometimes experience migraine pain. However, doctors often encourage pregnant women to avoid migraine medications that contain triptans, as well as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin. Instead, doctors may recommend a massage, the use of cold or warm compresses on the head or taking a bath to help pregnant women relieve migraine pain. For pregnant women who are dealing with migraines, it is important to consult with a doctor right away to get the assistance they need to safely and effectively address their symptoms.

5 Migraine Treatment Categories

There are five migraine treatment categories: lifestyle, alternative therapies, medication, Botox and surgery. To determine which treatment will deliver the best-possible results, an individual first requires a migraine diagnosis. At The Migraine Institute, Dr. Jonathan Cabin helps patients who are dealing with chronic migraines and find that their current medications are insufficient or cause unwanted side effects. Dr. Cabin takes a holistic approach to help patients determine how to properly treat their migraine pain.