Medications are an important part of your migraine treatment plan. Finding the right doctor or healthcare provider is the first step toward finding the medications that work best for you. You can find a headache specialist through the National Headache Foundation directory.
The good news is that there are many different medications available for chronic migraines.
Types of migraine medication
- There are several types of migraine medication, depending on the goals of treatment. These include:
- Medications to prevent migraine—you might take these regularly or daily
- Medications to treat migraine—it’s possible to get a migraine from time to time even if you take medication to prevent it
Medications to prevent migraine
These medications can make it less likely that you will get a migraine. If your healthcare provider prescribes medication to prevent migraine, take it as instructed. If you have side effects, call your provider before you stop taking the medication.
Medications to treat migraine
Many medications can stop migraines or make them less painful. Ideally, these medications should give pain relief within about 2 hours. Some of these medications also reduce migraine symptoms such as nausea.
Talk to your healthcare provider about which medications to take first if you get a migraine. Also talk with your provider about what to do if the medications do not help. It is likely you’ll continue to experience at least some migraines even if you take medication to prevent them.
If you take medication to treat migraines, but it doesn’t work, rescue medications can help treat the pain and other symptoms. They might also help you relax and sleep until the migraine passes.
What if the medication I need is too expensive?
Some migraine medications are expensive, and a generic form may not be available. Learn how to cover medication expenses.
What is a medication overuse headache?
Taking too much medication to stop migraine, or taking it for too long, can cause more headaches. Healthcare providers call these “medication overuse headaches.” You might also hear them called “rebound headaches.”
How much medication is too much? Taking certain medications more than 2 days a week can cause medication overuse headaches. If this happens, your medication to prevent migraines might become less effective.
To stop medication overuse headaches, you need to stop taking as much medication. Talk with your healthcare provider about all the medications you take and make a plan. But keep in mind that your headaches might get worse before they get better when you stop taking your current medication. For instance, you might feel nervous, dizzy, constipated, or sick to your stomach.
Getting used to less medication can take as little as 2 days or as long as 10. Your healthcare provider might prescribe other medications to help with symptoms while your body adjusts. After your medication overuse headaches stop, your provider might prescribe preventive medication to take every day. If you take it the way your provider tells you, it should not cause medication overuse headaches. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any extra medication.
The table below gives some general information about different types of medication. If you take the amount below (or more) and still have headaches, talk to your healthcare provider.
|You can get medication overuse headache if ...|
|You take this medication||For this many days a month or more|
|Pain medications (over-the-counter and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory)||15|
|Triptans (including triptan medications combined with pain medication)||10|
|Pain medications (over-the-counter and narcotic, including combination over-the-counter medications such as Excedrin)||10|