Migraine headaches are a severe type of headache that can be life-threatening. It affects mostly women and affects about 36 million people in the US. About one in four families has someone in the family that has a migraine sufferer in it. Migraines involve a headache which is often unbearable and debilitating when happening. It can be described as a pain which is pulsating or throbbing on one side of the head or the other. Fortunately, there are medications that can be given to prevent migraine headaches.
Who Needs Migraine Prevention Medication?
If you suffer from migraine headaches that interfere with the quality of your life, you may wish to consider taking migraine prevention medication. There are many types of medications available to reduce the chance that you might have it. If one type of medication doesn’t work for you, work with your doctor to try another type until you find one that actually reduces the number of migraines you have and the severity of the headaches.
Migraine prevention is the treatment for you if you have these issues:
- Have at least three severe or moderate headaches every month.
- Have pain that alters your quality of life even with treatment.
- Take many painkillers for migraine headaches.
- Can’t get pain relief from your current pain medication regimen.
- Have side effects from headache medications.
- Have a continuing aura before the onset of the headache.
You can’t take migraine prevention medication if you have these issues:
- You have certain health conditions that prevent you from taking such medication.
- The headaches are well controlled with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
- Other medications you have taken will react with migraine prevention medications.
- You do not want to take drugs for your headache.
A List of Migraine Prevention Medication
There are several different kinds of medications used to prevent migraine headaches. These include the following:
1. Calcium Channel Blockers
While these are not FDA approved for migraine prevention, there are many studies showing its benefit in preventing migraine headaches. Common calcium channel blockers include verapamil, which is also used for the treatment of high blood pressure.
These include medications such as MAO inhibitors, SSRI medication, tricyclic antidepressants, and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These prevent most types of migraine headaches but can make other types of migraines worse. They also help prevent depression associated with migraine headaches. These medications do have side effects, so you should talk to your doctor about side effects before taking any of these types of medications.
3. Beta Blockers
These include medications such as nadolol, atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol, and timolol. They do carry side effects, however, including exercise intolerance, depression, hypotension, and lethargy. Beta blockers are also used to treat high blood pressure.
4. Membrane Stabilizers
These include medications that also prevent seizures. There are several kinds of these medications, including topiramate, gabapentin, and sodium valproate. While they are traditionally used for seizure disorders, they work for pain disorders like migraine headaches as well.
5. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications
These are used both in the treatment and prevention of migraine headaches. Naproxen is one commonly used drug that belongs to this type. However, you should pay attention to the dosage of it since daily uses may also cause overuse effects.
6. Herbs and Supplements
Occasionally a migraine sufferer will use herbs and other supplements to prevent migraine headaches. These include Butterbur, Magnesium, feverfew, vitamin B12, Coenzyme Q and melatonin.
7. Serotonergic Medications
These include medications such as Sansert (methysergide) and Cyproheptadine. The former has been used for migraine prevention for half a century, but it has side effects that caused it to be pulled from the United States market, although you can get it in Canada. The latter is an antihistamine medication that also has calcium channel blocker capabilities. It has found to be helpful in children who have migraine headaches, but it isn’t tolerated very well by migraine sufferers who are adults.
8. Other Medications
Botulinum toxin: This is injected into the area of the head where the headaches are likely to occur for prevention of the migraine. It is currently not FDA-approved for this purpose.
Buproprion: This is an anti-anxiety medication that is occasionally used for the prevention of migraines.
Trazodone: This is a medication sometimes used for sleep, which is occasionally used for migraine prophylaxis.
More Tips to Prevent Migraine Attack
Besides migraine prevention medications, there are things you can do to alter the incidence of migraine headaches by undertaking certain lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes have been known to be good at preventing certain types of migraines. Here are some lifestyle changes you might want to consider:
1. Get Enough Sleep
It is important to keep a steady sleep schedule and to get enough sleep if you want to prevent migraine headaches. You should try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at about the same time every morning, regardless of the day of the week. If your sleep is disrupted for some reason or if you get too much or too little sleep, it can trigger a migraine headache.
2. Get Enough Regular Exercise
Some people are afraid that regular exercise will bring on a migraine headache. While overexerting can bring on a headache in certain people, most research suggests that those who undertake moderate exercise on a regular basis can reduce the duration, severity and amount of headaches you have. Exercise can reduce stress, which can trigger migraines.
3. Eat Regular and Healthy Meals
It is important to keep a regular blood sugar levels because low glucose levels can cause a migraine. You should also drink a lot of water because being dehydrated can cause it.
4. Decrease Stress
Stress is a typical trigger for migraine headaches. Try to take some time out of your busy schedule in order to find relaxation time. Practice meditation or yoga in order to reduce stress. Other stress-relieving techniques include taking brief walks and listening to music that can calm you down.
5. Use Alternative Medicine Strategies
These can help you manage your stress levels without having to use migraine prevention medication. Things you might try include cognitive behavioral therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture techniques.