Reducing stress has also been shown to help decrease the frequency and severity of migraines (see Stress-Related Migraines for more information).
Other Lifestyle Changes
Some additional lifestyle changes that are important for migraine treatment and/or prevention include:
- Getting regular physical activity
- Eating a healthy diet (see Migraine Diet)
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation
- Getting adequate amounts of sleep
- Quitting smoking (if you smoke)
- Limiting alcohol intake.
Medications Used to Treat Migraines
There are two approaches to treating migraines with drugs:
- Taking medication at the beginning of an attack to relieve the symptoms (acute treatment)
- Taking daily medication to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks (preventive treatment).
Medications have been approved for both of these approaches.
Medicines for an Acute Migraine Attack
People who get occasional mild-to-moderate migraines may benefit from taking certain medicines at the start of an attack. Your healthcare provider can recommend a variety of medications. Some are available over-the-counter, while others require a prescription.
Some examples of medications used for the treatment of infrequent migraines that are mild to moderate in severity include:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- Aspirin (Ecotrin®, Bayer®, Anacin®)
- A combination of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine (Excedrin® Extra Strength, Excedrin® Migraine)
- A combination of isometheptene mucate, chloralphenazone, and acetaminophen (Midrin®, Migratine®)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®, Advil® Migraine) and others.
For most migraine sufferers, stronger medications may be necessary to control the pain. In these cases, your healthcare provider may recommend one of three classes of migraine medicines:
- Triptans, including:
- Ergot medications
- Opioid medicines.
Migraine Prevention Medicines
Your healthcare provider may recommend that you take medication to help prevent migraines in the first place. Often, migraine prevention medications are recommended when a person has these headaches more than two days per week (or eight days per month).
Some examples of medicines used to prevent migraines include:
- Propranolol (Inderal®), timolol (Blocadren®), and other beta blockers
- Divalproex (Depakote®), topiramate (Topamax®), and other seizure medications
- Verapamil (Calan®, Verelan®) and other calcium channel blockers
- Amitriptyline (Elavil®), nortriptyline (Pamelor®), and other tricyclic antidepressants
- Methysergide (Sansert®)
(Click Migraine Medications to learn more.)