Treatment Options for Migraine

Migraines can’t be cured unfortunately, but there are several different types of treatments available.

The type of treatment you receive can depend on how often you have headaches, how severe they are, and any other medical conditions you may have. It may take some trial-and-error before you and your doctor find what works best for you.

In addition, if a particular treatment causes severe side effects, you may need to try a different approach.

Treatment usually falls into these categories:

Preventive medications

These medicines are taken to prevent migraines before they occur. They’re usually taken daily or before your menstrual period if it has been linked to your migraines.
Often these medications are taken “off label,” meaning that you may not be using them for their original purpose, but they’re believed to be effective for migraine prevention.
The following are some common preventive medications:
  • Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
  • Cardiovascular drugs, including beta blockers such as propranolol and calcium channel blockers such as verapamil.
  • Anti-seizure drugs, such as valproate sodium
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as pizotefen
  • Botox injections. Although these are commonly used to reduce wrinkles, they’re also sometimes effective in preventing migraines. Treatments are usually done in the neck and forehead about every 12 weeks.

Pain-relieving medication

You may also hear this type of treatment referred to as acute or abortive treatment.

These are taken after a migraine has already started and include the following medicines:

  • Analgesics, such as naproxen and diclofenac sodium. These medications can reduce the amount of pain chemicals produced and also reduce inflammation.
  • Triptans, such as naratriptan and sumatriptan. These medications work by helping to constrict your blood vessels and block pain pathways to your brain. They can be taken in various ways, including as a pill, nasal spray, or injection. Triptans usually aren’t recommended if you’re at a higher-than-average risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Rescue medications

These are taken if other pain-relieving medications don’t work or if you can’t take them because of other health issues or side effects. They won’t stop your migraine, but they can help mask the pain and other symptoms.
Rescue medications include the following:
  • Anti-nausea medications, such as compazine
  • Muscle relaxants, such as Skelaxin

Lifestyle treatments

In addition, a number of lifestyle treatments can help provide some relief, but they’re most effective when combined with medication:
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation
  • Lying down in a dark, quiet room
  • Massage
  • Applying heat or cold to the painful areas on your scalp and on the back of your neck
Ultimately, a combination of treatments may be needed to effectively treat your migraines. Keeping a headache diary that includes any medications you take, how effective they are, and any side effects they cause, can help pinpoint how effective particular treatments are.