What is the best way to treat a migraine?

What is the best way to treat a migraine?
I get migraines every so often, and I was wondering what the best way to treat them was. I’ve used Excedrine Migraine, but it doesn’t always work. even though you have any suggestions I would greatly appriciate it.

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8 thoughts on “What is the best way to treat a migraine?”

  1. If you can take medication before the acutal migraine sets in, that may work. I get them too and thankfully, I have an indicator that lets me know when one is coming. I get this weird kaliediscope effect in one eye and I start taking Advil to ward it off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Talk to your doctor about prescription strength Advil or Tylenol.

  2. There are absolutely miraculous drugs for migraines that are available only with a prescription. Migraine drugs stop the vascular problems that cause the pain within a minute or two. Make an appointment with your doc to see about a prescription for Imitrex or other medication. Some people can completely control migraine problems with the newer drugs.

  3. I suffer from migraines linked to allergies and sinus issues and have been to several neurologists. I have taken all the drugs, and the best thing we have found to work is:
    2 excedrine migraine taken with a mountain dew. (or Dr. Pepper, or any other high level caffeine beverage) Literally, drink a 20oz with the pills. You may feel a little jittery later, but you’ll be thankful the migraine is gone.

    The caffeine helps push the meds and open the blood flow. I save the other meds for the days I crawl into bed and ignore the world. You can also try rotating ice and heat on your head. Remember to take deep breaths. Oxygen will help alleviate the pain. (I get put on Oxy tanks when I go to the doc when I can’t get rid of one).
    The other thing that has helped keep them at bay had been allergy shots, a B vitamin complex supplement, and a vitamin called Stresstabs. I maybe get one every few months now.

  4. Conventional treatment focuses on three areas: trigger avoidance, symptomatic control, and preventive drugs. Patients who experience migraines often find that the recommended treatments are not 100% effective at preventing migraines, and sometimes may not be effective at all.

    *Trigger avoidance

    Patients can attempt to identify and avoid factors that promote or precipitate migraine episodes. Moderation in alcohol and caffeine intake, consistency in sleep habits, and regular meals may be helpful. Beyond an often pronounced placebo effect, general dietary restriction has not been demonstrated to be an effective approach to treating migraine.

    Nonetheless, some people fervently claim that they have successfully identified foods that are likely to result in migraines, and by avoiding them, can decrease the likelihood of an episode.

    *Abortive treatment

    Migraine sufferers usually develop their own coping mechanisms for the pain of a migraine attack. A cold or hot shower directed at the head, a hot or cold wet washcloth, a warm bath, or resting in a dark and silent room may be as helpful as medication for many patients, but both should be used when needed.

    Some headache sufferers are surprised to learn that a simple cup of coffee is used daily around the world to control minor vascular headaches that are not quite migraines.[citation needed] Minor vascular headaches are frequently associated with the hormonal fluctuations of menstrual periods, irregular eating, and unusually hard work. For migraineurs, a well-timed cup of coffee can prevent outright migraine under the same conditions.

    For patients who have been diagnosed with recurring migraines, doctors recommend taking migraine abortive medicines to treat the attack as soon as possible. Migraine without aura presenting without prodrome or nausea can present with sudden onset. Many patients avoid taking their medications when an attack is beginning, hoping that “it will go away”. However, in many cases once an attack is underway, it can become intensely painful, last for a long time (sometimes even for several days), and become somewhat resistant to medical treatment. In contrast, treating the attack at the onset can often abort it before it becomes serious, and can reduce the near-term frequency of subsequent attacks.

    For sufferers of weather-related migraines there is a simple treatment known as the Valsalva maneuver, which pilots and frequent fliers employ to relieve discomfort from pressure change. By holding your nose and gently pushing the air in your mouth back towards your ears and “popping” them you are opening your eustachian tubes. These normally open and close with regular chewing and talking but in some people may stay closed due to allergies or genetics. Regular opening and closing of the eustachian tubes allows a person to continually equalize to any change in the ambient barometric pressure. When this does not occur regularly the difference in pressure between the head and the environment can cause vascular swelling/constricting and trigger a migraine. Migraines can be stopped by doing the Valsalva maneuver three or four times. During changeable weather patterns doing the maneuver fifteen times per day can eliminate the headaches.

    Acetaminophen or Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs)

    The first line of treatment is over-the-counter abortive medication.

    * Regarding non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a randomized controlled trial found that naproxen can abort about one third of migraine attacks, which was 5% less than the benefit of sumatriptan.
    * Acetaminophen, at a dose of 1000 mg, benefited over half of patients with mild or moderate migraines in a randomized controlled trial.
    * Simple analgesics combined with caffeine may help. During a migraine attack, emptying of the stomach is slowed, resulting in nausea and a delay in absorbing medication. Caffeine has been shown to partially reverse this effect, and probably accounts for its benefit.[citation needed] Excedrin is an example of an aspirin with caffeine product. Caffeine is recognized by the U.S. FDA as an OTC treatment for migraine.

    Patients themselves often start off with paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the USA), aspirin, ibuprofen, or other simple analgesics that are useful for tension headaches. Some patients find relief from taking Benadryl[citation needed], an over-the-counter sedative antihistamine, or anti-nausea agents. OTC drugs may provide some relief, although they are typically not effective for most sufferers. It is one of doctors’ practical diagnoses of migraine head pain when patients say typical OTC drugs “won’t touch it”.

    *Serotonin agonists

    Sumatriptan and related selective serotonin receptor agonists are excellent for severe migraines or those that do not respond to NSAIDs or other over-the-counter drugs.Triptans are a mid-line treatment suitable for many migraineurs with typical migraines. They may not work for atypical or unusually severe migraines, transformed migraines, or status (continuous) migraines.

    [edit] Ergot alkaloids

    Until the introduction of sumatriptan in 1991, ergot derivatives (see ergoline) were the primary oral drugs available to abort a migraine once it is established.

    Ergot drugs can be used either as a preventive or abortive therapy, though their relative expense and cumulative side effects suggest reserving them as an abortive rescue medicine. However, ergotamine tartrate tablets (usually with caffeine), though highly effective, and long lasting (unlike triptans), have fallen out of favour due to the problem of ergotism. Oral ergotamine tablet absorption is reliable unless the patient is nauseated. Anti-nausea administration is available by ergotamine suppository (or Ergostat sublingual tablets made until circa 1992). Ergotamine-caffeine 1/100 mg fixed ratio tablets (like Cafergot, Ercaf, etc.) are much less expensive per headache than triptans, and are commonly available in Asia. They are difficult to obtain in the USA. Ergotamine-caffeine can’t be regularly used to abort evening or night onset migraines due to debilitating caffeine interference with sleep. Pure ergotamine tartrate is highly effective for evening-night migraines, but is rarely or never available in the USA. Dihydroergotamine (DHE), which must be injected or inhaled, can be as effective as ergotamine tartrate, but is much more expensive than $ 2 USD Cafergot tablets.

    [edit] Other agents

    If over-the-counter medications do not work, or if triptans are unaffordable, the next step for many doctors is to prescribe Fioricet or Fiorinal, which is a combination of butalbital (a barbiturate), acetaminophen (in Fioricet) or acetylsalicylic acid (more commonly known as aspirin and present in Fiorinal), and caffeine. While the risk of addiction is low, butalbital can be habit-forming if used daily, and it can also lead to rebound headaches. Barbiturate-containing medications are not available in many European countries.

    Narcotic pain killers (for example, codeine, morphine or other opiates) provide variable relief, but their side effects, the possibility of causing rebound headaches or analgesic overuse headache, and the risk of addiction contraindicates their general use.

    Amidrine (a cocktail of a pain reliever, a sedative, and a vasoconstrictor) is sometimes prescribed for migraine headaches.

    Anti-emetics by suppository or injection may be needed in cases where vomiting dominates the symptoms. The earlier these drugs are taken in the attack, the better their effect.

    Intravenous chlorpromazine has proven very effective in treating status migrainosus—intractable and unremitting migraine. [citation needed]Status migraine is an extremely rare life-threatening condition.[citation needed] In otherwise uncomplicated, non-nauseated cases, it can be treated with 20 mg of prednisone tablets every eight hours until the migraine ends, followed by mandatory tapering off doses (the classic steroid taper). Prednisone is a cortisol-like semi-synthetic adrenal hormone, a non-anabolic steroid, which strongly stimulates biosynthesis of proteins from DNA. The replicated proteins include enzymes that cure the migraine through numerous metabolic boosts, including molecular construction of more natural serotonin to be stored in blood platelets.

    Prednisone risks include immune system suppression, adrenal axis suppression, non-addictive dependence, and long-term osteoporosis. Vitamin antioxidants taken with calcium and magnesium may reduce the damage caused by the extra free radicals released, and the bone lost, during long term prednisone use.[citation needed]

    [edit] Comparative studies

    Regarding comparative effectiveness of these drugs used to abort migraine attacks, a 2004 placebo-controlled trial[46] reveals that high dose acetylsalicylic acid (1000 mg), sumatriptan 50 mg and ibuprofen 400 mg are equally effective at providing relief from pain, although sumatriptan was superior in terms of the more demanding outcome of rendering patients entirely free of pain. Acetylsalicylic acid is OTC aspirin, ibuprofen is OTC Advil, and since migraineurs know they don’t provide much relief, the results of this study are unexpected. They may be partly related to the dosage of acetylsalicylic acid used, which was considerably higher than the one or two 300 mg tablets normally recommended for OTC use. High doses of aspirin and ibuprofen may cause ringing of the ears, which is a sign of drug toxicity to the inner ear.

    Another randomized controlled trial, funded by the manufacturer of the study drug, found that a combination of sumatriptan 85 mg and naproxen sodium 200 mg was better than either drug alone.[43]

    [edit] Preventive drugs[47]

    Following treatment of an acute migraine, it is important to consider preventive measures. Factors that prompt consideration of such measures include: 1) more than two migraines per month with disabilities lasting three or more days per month; 2) failure of acute treatments; 3) contraindications to acute treatments; 4) adverse reactions from acute treatments; 5) use of acute treatments more than twice a week; or 6) presence of uncommon symptoms such as hemiplegia, prolonged, aura, or migraine infarction.

    The main goal of preventive therapy is to reduce the frequency, severity, and durations of migraines, and to increase the effectiveness of abortive therapy. Another reason is to avoid medication overuse headache (MOH), otherwise known as rebound headache, which is an extremely common problem among migraneurs. This occurs in part due to overuse of pain medications. MOH results in the development of chronic daily headache due to “transformed” migraine.

    Preventive medication has to be taken on a daily basis, usually for a few weeks, before the effectiveness can be determined. Supervision by a neurologist is advisable. A large number of medications with varying modes of action can be used. Selection of a suitable medication for any particular patient is a matter of trial and error, since the effectiveness of individual medications varies widely from one patient to the next. Often preventive medications do not have to be taken indefinitely. Sometimes as little as six months of preventive therapy is enough to “break the headache cycle” and then they can be discontinued.

    The most effective prescription medications include several drug classes:

    * beta blockers such as propranolol and atenolol. A meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration of nine randomized controlled trials or crossover studies, which together included 668 patients, found that propranolol had an “overall relative risk of response to treatment (here called the ‘responder ratio’)” was 1.94.[48]
    * anticonvulsants such as valproic acid and topiramate. A meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration of ten randomized controlled trials or crossover studies, which together included 1341 patients, found anticonvulsants had an “2.4 times more likely to experience a 50% or greater reduction in frequency with anticonvulsants than with placebo” and a number needed to treat of 3.8.[49] However, concerns have been raised about the marketing of gabapentin.[50]
    * antidepressants include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as amitriptyline and the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine. A meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration found selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are no more effective than placebo.[51] Another meta-analysis found benefit from SSRIs among patients with migraine or tension headache; however, the effect of SSRIs on only migraines was not separately reported.[52] A randomized controlled trial found that amitriptyline was better than placebo and similar to propranolol.[53]

    Other drugs:

    * Sansert was withdrawn from the US market by Novartis, but is available in Canadian pharmacies. Although highly effective, it has rare but serious side effects, including retroperitoneal fibrosis.
    * Namenda, memantine HCI tablets, which is used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, is beginning to be used off label for the treatment of migraines. It has not yet been approved by the FDA for the treatment of migraines.
    * ASA or Asprin can be taken daily in low doses such as 80 to 81 mg, the blood thinners in ASA has been shown to help some migrainures, especially those who have an aura.

    [edit] Physical therapy

    Many physicians believe that exercise for 15-20 minutes per day is helpful for reducing the frequency of migraines.[54]

    Massage therapy and physical therapy are often very effective forms of treatment to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. However, it is important to be treated by a well-trained therapist who understands the pathophysiology of migraines. Deep massage can ‘trigger’ a migraine attack in a person who is not used to such treatments. It is advisable to start sessions as short in duration and then work up to longer treatments.

    Frequent migraines can leave the sufferer with a stiff neck which can cause stress headaches that can then exacerbate the migraines. Claims have been made that Myofascial Release can relieve this tension and in doing so reduce or eliminate the stress headache element.[citation needed]

    [edit] Prism eyeglasses

    At least two British studies have shown a relationship between the use of eyeglasses containing prisms and a reduction in migraine headaches.

    Turville, A. E. (1934) “Refraction and migraine”. Br. J. Physiol. Opt. 8, 62–89, contains a good review of the literature and theories existing in 1934, and includes the vascular theory of migraine, which is popular today. In that study, Turville suggests that many patients were provided with complete relief from migraine symptoms with proper eyeglass prescriptions, which included prescribed prism.

    Wilmut, E. B. (1956) “Migraine”. Br. J. Physiol. Opt. 13, 93–97, replicated Turville’s work. Both studies are subject to criticism because of sample bias, sample size, and the lack of a control group.

    Neither study is available online, but another study that found that precision tinted lenses may be an effective migraine treatment and which references the Turville and Wilmut studies can be found at [3] (PDF).

    Turville’s and Wilmut’s conclusions have largely been ignored since 1956 and it is widely believed that vision problems are not migraine triggers.

    Most optometrists avoid prescribing prism because, when incorrectly prescribed, it can cause headaches.

    [edit] Herbal and nutritional supplements

    50 mg or 75 mg/day of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) rhizome extract was shown in a controlled trial to provide 50% or more reduction in the number of migraines to 68% of participants in the 75 mg dose group, 56% in the 50 mg dose group and 49% in the placebo group after four months. Native butterbur contains some carcinogenic compounds, but a purified version, Petadolex®, does not.[4]

    Cannabis was a standard treatment for migraines from the mid-19th century until it was outlawed in the early 20th century in the USA. It has been reported to help people through an attack by relieving the nausea and dulling the head pain, as well as possibly preventing the headache completely when used as soon as possible after the onset of pre-migraine symptoms, such as aura. There is some indication that semi-regular use may reduce the frequency of attacks. Further studies are being conducted. Some migraine sufferers report that cannabis increases throbbing and pain, especially if smoked. A pharmaceutical company is currently conducting trials of a whole cannabis extract spray for migraine[5]

    Supplementation of coenzyme Q10 has been found to have a beneficial effect on the condition of some sufferers of migraines. In an open-label trial,[55] Young and Silberstein found that 61.3% of patients treated with 100 mg/day had a greater than 50% reduction in number of days with migraine, making it more effective than most prescription prophylactics. Fewer than 1% reported any side effects. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial has also found positive results.[56]

    The plant feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a traditional herbal remedy believed to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Clinical trials have been carried out (example), and appear to confirm that the effect is genuine (though it does not completely prevent attacks). [citation needed]Kudzu root (Pueraria lobata) has been demonstrated to help with menstrual migraine headaches and cluster headaches. While the studies on menstrual migraine assumed that kudzu acted by imitating estrogen, it has since been shown that kudzu has significant effects on the serotonin receptors. Kudzu Monograph at Med-Owl.

    Magnesium citrate has reduced the frequency of migraine in an experiment in which the magnesium citrate group received 600 mg per day oral of trimagnesium dicitrate. In weeks 9-12, the frequency of attacks was reduced by 41.6% in the magnesium citrate group and by 15.8% in the placebo group.[57] The supplement Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 has also been used, often with magnesium citrate, to reduce the number of migraines. Its effectiveness is less well documented.

    [edit] Non-drug medical treatments

    Botox is being used by many headache specialists for patients with frequent or chronic migraines with encouraging results.[58] Spinal cord stimulators are an implanted medical device sometimes used for those who suffer severe migraines several days each month.[59]

    Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): At the 49th Annual meeting of the American Headache Society in June 2006, scientists from Ohio State University Medical Center presented medical research on 47 candidates that demonstrated that TMS — a medically non-invasive technology for treating depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and tinnitus, among other ailments — helped to prevent and even reduce the severity of migraines among its patients. This treatment essentially disrupts the aura phase of migraines before patients develop full-blown migraines.[6] In about 74% of the migraine headaches, TMS was found to eliminate or reduce nausea and sensitivity to noise and light.[7] Their research suggests that there is a strong neurological component to migraines. A larger study will be conducted soon to better assess TMS’s complete effectiveness.[60]

    [edit] Alternatives

    Because the conventional approaches to migraine prevention are not 100% effective and can have unpleasant side effects, many seek alternative treatments.

    Some migraine sufferers find relief through acupuncture, which is usually used to help prevent headaches from developing. Sometimes acupuncture is used to relieve the pain of an active migraine headache.[citation needed] In one controlled trial of acupuncture with a sham control in migraine, the acupuncture was not more effective than the sham acupuncture but was more effective than delayed acupuncture.[citation needed]

    Additionally acupressure is used by some for relief. For instance pressure between the thumbs and index finger to help subside headaches if the headache or migraine isn’t too severe.[citation needed]

    Incense and scents are shown to help. The smell and incense of peppermint and lavender have been proven to help with migraines and headaches more so than most other scents. Mauskop A, Fox B, ‘What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines. Warner Books, New York, 2001 Biofeedback has been used successfully by some to control migraine symptoms through training and practice. Mauskop A, Fox B, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines. Warner Books, New York, 2001

    Sleep is often a good solution if a migraine is not so severe as to prevent it, as when a person awakes the symptoms will have most likely subsided.

    Diet, visualization, and self-hypnosis are also alternative treatments and prevention approaches.

    Bruxism, clenching or grinding of teeth, especially at night, is a trigger for many migraineurs. A device called a nociceptive trigeminal inhibitor (NTI) takes advantage of a reflex limiting the force of clenching. It can be fitted by dentists and clips over the front teeth at night, preventing contact between the back teeth. It has a success rate similar to butterbur and co-enzyme Q10, although it has not been subjected to the same rigorous testing as the supplements. Massage therapy of the jaw area can also reduce such pain.

    Sexual activity has been reported by a proportion of male and female migraine sufferers to relieve migraine pain significantly in some cases.[8]

    In many cases where a migraine follows a particular cycle, attempting to interrupt the cycle may prolong the symptoms. Letting a headache “run its course” by not using painkillers can sometimes decrease the length of an episode. This is especially true of cases where vomiting is common, as often the headache will subside immediately after vomiting. Curbing the pain may delay vomiting, and prolong the headache.

  5. I feel your pain-literally! I have been getting migraines since I was six years old, and I am currently 21. I have been studying migraines for years since they are such a big part of my life, unfortunately. It is crucial that you take medication when you feel the SLIGHTEST migraine coming on. This could simply be a slight pain in your temple that comes and goes. I understand the fear everyone has today of taking too much meds but you know what, the pain you will feel later IS NOT WORTH IT! Once the migraine hits, no meds will really help you out. You just have to tough it out, but there are ways to get through it. Wet a hand towel with cold water and place it above your eyes. Lay there for about a half an hour, and you should feel some relief. You should have someone rub your neck, and massage your pressure points such as your temples or the area between your thumb and index finger. Head-On is something you can buy at Walgreens that offers temporary relief. It is almost like a Bengay for your head, that basically relieves the tension in your muscles in the forehead area. Otherwise, make sure you are in a dark room with no lights or noise. It might seem impossible, but try to get some sleep. If I can suggest anything, it is to see your doctor and get some prescription meds such as Imitrex for your occassional migraines. They really affect personal life and restrict most people from doing what they want to do. I just set up a blog called MIGRAINESINTHEMEDIA.BLOGSPOT.COM… I will shortly be posting stories and updates on there for migraine sufferers, and am trying to set up somewhat of an online help center…. because frankly, no one realy understands what you’re going through except other migraine sufferers. I hope this helps! Good luck!

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