How are migraines treated?
The process of having a migraine is unique to each individual. Treatment plans also need to be unique to your needs. Your active participation in treatment is important for effective headache management. Identifying and avoiding your personal migraine triggers, managing symptoms, practicing preventive methods, following the advice of your doctor, and immediately reporting any significant changes will provide the best outcome.
While there is no cure for migraine headaches, they can be managed and, in many cases, their severity, length and frequency can be improved. Medications are available to decrease symptoms, and to prevent them. Your treatment plan will depend on the frequency and severity of your headaches, if you have nausea and vomiting, and other medical issues you have.
Pain-relieving or abortive medications treat the pain and are most effective when used at the first sign of a migraine. They may stop the headache process, or at least decrease symptoms. Some medications work by constricting blood vessels to relieve the throbbing pain. The Food and Drug Administration has approved three nonprescription medications for migraine pain: Excedrin Migraine, Advil Migraine, and Motrin Migraine Pain. Overusing these medications by taking them more than two to three times a week can cause rebound headaches or a dependency problem. Ask your doctor if a prescription medication might be more effective.
Preventive medications may be prescribed if your headaches are severe, occur more than four times a month, and interfere with your normal activities. They help by reducing the frequency and severity of headaches, and are usually taken daily.
Prescription medications include:
- Triptan class of drugs (sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan) block pain pathways in the brain
- Calcium channel blockers (verapamil) lower blood pressure
- Calcitonin gene-related monoclonal antibodies
- Beta blockers
- Antiseizure drugs
- Botox injections
- Antinausea drugs
Home remedies refers to non-drug options, including:
- Rest in a dark, quiet, cool room
- Apply cold compress (or heat if you prefer) to your forehead, and back of the neck
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Massage your scalp with pressure on your temples in a slow, circular motion
Lifestyle changes can be very helpful:
- Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight; obesity is a contributing factor to migraines
- Exercise regularly
- Biofeedback can teach you how to detect your body’s stress responses and reduce them
- Staying calm with any healthy stress-reducing techniques that work for you (meditation, yoga, deep breathing, exercise, etc.)
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep every night and maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule
- Eat at regular times and don’t skip meals, even if you just have a light snack
- Stay hydrated with plenty of water
- If you cannot control your stress, get a referral to counseling from your doctor
- Acupuncture, tested in clinical trials, has been found to be helpful for headache pain