Migraine treatment involves both treating acute attacks when they occur and developing preventive strategies for reducing the frequency and severity of attacks.
Treating Migraine Attacks
Many effective headache remedies are available for treating a migraine attack. Still, many patients are treated with unapproved drugs, including opoids and barbiturates that can be potentially addictive or dangerous.
The main types of medications for treating a migraine attack are:
- Pain relievers [usually nonprescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen]
It is best to treat a migraine attack as soon as symptoms first occur. Doctors generally recommend:
- Start with nonprescription pain relievers for mild-to-moderate attacks. If migraine pain is severe, a prescription version of an NSAID may be recommended.
- A triptan is generally the next drug of choice.
- Ergotamine drugs tend to be less effective than triptans but are helpful for some patients.
- Depending on the severity of the attacks, and accompanying symptoms, the doctor may recommend taking a triptan or ergotamine drug in tablet, injection, or suppository form. The doctor may also prescribe specific medications for treating symptoms such as nausea.
Try to guard against medication overuse, which can cause a rebound effect. Nearly all pain relief drugs used for migraine can cause rebound headache, and patients should not take any the drugs more than 9 days per month. If you find that you need to use acute migraine treatment more frequently, talk to your doctor about preventive medications.
Review Date: 11/04/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.