Taking Medications for Migraines - What You Need to Know

Taking the right medications for migraines can be elusive. Twenty years ago I couldn’t find anything without side effects and that just added to my fear of dying. Oh, glum so soon. Sorry. But I do wish I knew then, what I know now. Here’s what I think you need to know now.

Do you need to know - for example - seven drugs are approved by the FDA for acute treatment and only four others are approved for migraine prevention?

Do you need to know that OTC headache tablets can make your migraine worse?

I think so. 

This is so important for us sufferers. We don't need MORE pain we need less.

And we don't want to overdose on painkillers because they don't work and we are in a panic. 

You can trial lots of different natural therapies, but in my personal experience none of them work better than a triptan to abort the pain. In fact, that is all that aborts the pain for my relentless migraines. 

Finding effective medications for migraines, your specific type, will be the first port of call with your physician.

It is your best option right now, especially with the relatively new designer classification of triptans. For the complete approved list of migraine medications please click on the link.

This video called Better Migraine Treatment by Daily Health Updates.com mentions the current problem with effective treatment using medications for migraines. No one pill covers all the systems in the body being affected with a migraine episode – blood vessels, nerves and inflammation.

They cite a clinical trial that used a combination of Sumatriptan (Imitrex®) and Naproxen (500mgs) with successful findings towards taking the combination over a triptan or anti-inflammatory alone.

Dr. Mike Rosen clearly states that this combo is the best result for acute treatment of migraine so far.

I have reached the same conclusion over the last twenty years. I now find one 2.5 mg Naratriptan and one 400 mgs Ibuprofen works best to manage an acute attack.

Hundreds of Medications Are Used For Migraines - 7 Are Approved for Acute Attacks

Out of the hundreds of medications listed for headaches and migraine only a few get approved by the FDA for acute treatment and even less are approved for migraine prevention.

I can't possibly stay on top of the medication listings, so click here to get consumer updates via email from the FDA.

For new neurology FDA approved medications at Centerwatch.com has good drug information. And I find it much easier to read.

You will still need to decipher what is used for migraines, but let me make this simple.

The approved acute treatments by the FDA are the family of medications known as Triptans: including Imitrex, Maxalt and Zomig. Three over the counter treatments are approved: Motrin, Excedrin, and Advil Migraine Pain®. Make sure they all say Migraine; you will need the extra strength in them.

The four FDA-approved preventive migraine treatments are: Propanolol (Inderal®), Timolol (Blocadren®), Divalproex Sodium (Depakote®) and Topiramate (Topamax®).

Be Aware Of “Off-Label” Medications for Migraines!

The neurologists I have seen say that there are more than 30 other drugs they can prescribe or suggest to take for effective migraine reduction.

These are called ‘off-label’ and are sometimes more effective than the FDA-approved medications. Hmmm ... I haven’t found any yet, the side effects have been too scary, but that’s just me.

Opiates, such as Demerol, are also used for migraines even though they are not proven to work very well with migraines. They are also addictive.

Overuse is a common problem that mainly occurs because the medication DOES NOT WORK. So in desperation we take more to get the pain under control.  This is not in our best interest.

***For example, over use and long term use of ibuprofen can cause kidney damage.***

What You Need To Know About Taking Abortive Medications

Medications for Migraines
  • Take your abortive at your earliest warning sign that a migraine is coming.
  • Take the right one for you, at the right dose.

The goal is complete relief of pain and the accompanying symptoms. Feel free to use our symptom tracker to help with this task.

Make notes on how long it takes you to return to normal functioning and take them to your next Doctor visit.

Keep checking with your Doctor, there are new medications being developed much more often that you would think.

Some attacks are not eliminated with your abortive therapy alone. It might be useful to form a migraine headache new treatment plan and have an option B, if your medication does not work.

Talk to your Chemist or Pharmacist as well. Additional information will make a more effective and reliable pain management plan.

Use Walgreens Chemist for Reliable Medications

I know you can buy a lot of things over the internet these days but ... please always use a reliable source for your medications.

I can recommend using Walgreen's Chemist for safe medications plus they have a compounding service if you need it.

What You Need To Know About Taking Preventative Medications

  • Take them at the same time each day.
  • Keep a list of the medications you have tried if the first one does not work for you.
  • Keep a small journal or diary to record the side effects of each medication. It will help if it takes you a long time to find what works or need to change doctors. Print my medication tracker - I find it helps a lot.

Many Medications Can Cause Rebound Headaches

“Although headaches are natural, they are not necessary”, argues David Buchholz, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In his book Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Headaches.

Buchholz suggests that severe migraine headache sufferers should avoid quick fix painkillers and highlights that many medications for migraines also cause rebound headaches.

He suggests a more holistic approach:

- minimize triggers like caffeine, perfumes, certain foods and stress and, only for hardcore cases to use preventative medications such as Triptans, Tricyclic Antidepressants, or Calcium Channel Blockers.

Remember that triggers can be delayed up to two or three days and can be the accumulation of a number of factors!

Buchholz believes that if you take this list of drugs more than three times a month you may be experiencing rebound headaches:

• "Caffeine-containing analgesics (Excedrin, Anacin, etc.)

• Butalbital compounds (Fiorinal, Fioricet, Phrenilin, etc.)

• Isometheptene compounds (Midrin, Duradrin, etc.)

• Decongestants (Sudafed, Tylenol Sinus, Dristan, Afrin, etc.)

• Ergotamines (Ergomar, Wigraine, Migranal and D.H.E. 45)

• Triptans (Imitrex, Amerge, Zomig, Maxalt and Axert)

• Opioids and related drugs (Tylenol with codeine, Percocet, Darvocet, OxyContin, etc.)"

Oh dear! I think might be the whole list. Oh well – it is time to be aware of rebound medications eh!

Ways to Treat Migraines

Besides avoiding your environmental and food triggers, the most recent studies show that the best way to treat this condition is with a combination of traditional medications for migraines and alternative therapies like: 

I can also recommend professional counseling for a little extra migraine support. I found learning new coping skills very beneficial. 

Read More About Medications for Migraines

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With this new information, what one thing can you do now to reduce your attacks?