Types Of Headaches Migraine Headaches Medications

A staggering range of potential migraine medication exists. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be advised to take over-the-counter analgesics, prescription medications designed to quickly relieve symptoms, or even long-term medication to prevent headaches from developing. Recent research has even revealed that injections of the botulism toxin (BOTOX®) can relieve migraine pain.

Non-Prescription Analgesics

If you experience mild to moderate migraine pain, chances are good that your first treatment option will be an over-the-counter analgesic, such as aspirin or acetaminophen. To be most effective, the medication should be taken as soon as symptoms are noticed.

Unless advised to by your doctor, never take more than the recommended dosage. Taking analgesics more than three times a week increases the risks of developing rebound headaches from the medication. Side effects of the painkillers themselves are usually minor, but can include nausea, stomach problems, diarrhea and drowsiness.

Another option is the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). NSAIDs treat migraines by relieving both pain and inflammation. For mild headaches, some NSAIDs, ibuprofen or naproxen, for example, are available without a prescription.

Relieving Migraine Headache Pain with Triptans

The triptan drug group is a popular choice for moderate to severe migraine pain. Triptans affect the brain’s level of serotonin, which in turn affects the brain’s perception of migraine pain. In addition, triptans narrow blood vessels in the brain, which reduces the pressure put on pain sensitive areas.

Amerge® and Imitrex® are two of the better-known triptans, but a variety of others exist, including Zomig®, Maxalt® and Axert®. They are available in oral tablet form, as injections, and as nasal sprays. The nasal sprays can be quite ill tasting.

Side effects of triptans include a warm, tingling sensation, dizziness, vomiting or nausea, and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

As with any other abortive medication (that is, any medication that treats a migraine after it has begun), triptans are best taken as early into the migraine as possible. If the first dose proves ineffective, some triptans can be taken a second time after about four hours, an advantage over many other types of medication.

Preventive Migraine Headache Medications

Individuals whose migraine pain does not respond well to abortive medications may be prescribed a preventive medication. Many such prescriptions are long-term, lasting for months, or even years. Tricyclic antidepressants, hypertension-reducing beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers, while all developed for other medical conditions, are often used to prevent migraines. Some patients find that their migraines are fully prevented, while others experience them less frequently, and with less intensity.

The anti-seizure medication divalproex sodium (Depakote®) was originally developed to treat epilepsy, but has proven to be a very effective migraine preventive as well. Depakote’s main side effects are stomach problems and fatigue. It should not be taken during pregnancy, as it can damage a developing fetus. If taken by children under ten years old, Depakote can also cause serious liver damage.

Preventative Medication Complcations

Several types of preventive medications can cause unwanted complications or withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly. To avoid complications or rebound headache, you may need to slowly reduce the level of medication taken. Consult your doctor before stopping any prescription migraine medications.

BOTOX: Migraine Headache Pain Relief Through Poison?

The botulism toxin is one of the most powerful toxins known to science, but recent research indicates it may have applications in migraine pain treatment. Botulism injections have been used cosmetically to remove facial wrinkles. Migraine sufferers who underwent this treatment reported up to three months of headache relief after BOTOX injections. Recent clinical trials have supported these claims, although the FDA has yet to formally acknowledge the use of BOTOX for the treatment of severe headaches.

Emergency Room Treatment

Severe migraine pain may lead to hospitalization where narcotics may be administered for pain relief. Narcotics are generally not prescribed outside of a hospital setting due to their habit-forming properties and the extreme drowsiness that often results from their use. Nausea-preventing medications, or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, may also be administered.

Resources

American Medical Association. (nd). Migraine management. Medem Medical Library.

Haas, D. C, MD. (updated 2002). Migraine therapy.

Migraine Action Association. (nd). How to treat migraine.

National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain. (nd). People with migraines.

National Library of Medicine. (2001). Sumatriptan (systemic). MedlinePlus Drug Information.