Munson Health
 
Medications for Headache

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by Wood D
 
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. Remember that all medications, including over-the-counter, can cause or worsen certain chronic headaches. It is important that you become aware of the alternative treatments, including stress management, which are an important part of treatment. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

Medications for Treating Migraines

Prescription Medications to Treat Migraines
Dihydroergotamine
Common brand names include:
  • DHE 45
  • Migranal
Dihydroergotamine constricts dilated blood vessels. It is injected to prevent or stop a migraine headache. Do not take this drug long-term. Notify your doctor right away if side effects occur.
Possible side effects include:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feelings of coldness in hands and feet
  • Weakness and pain in the leg muscles
  • Chest pain
  • Risk of heart attack and stroke
Phenothiazines
Common names include:
  • Prochlorperazine (Compazine, Compro)
  • Metoclopramide (Reglan)
Certain phenothiazines have been FDA-approved for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with migraines.
Possible side effects may include:
Over-the-Counter Medications to Treat Migraines
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Common names include:
  • Naproxen sodium (Aleve)
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin)
  • Aspirin (Bayer)
These drugs should not be used if you have peptic ulcer disease, recent bleeding from the gut, kidney disease, or heart disease. These drugs work to control pain and inflammation. Possible side effects include:
  • Rebound headache if pain reliever is taken on a regular basis
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Stomach upset
Analgesic Combinations
  • Excedrin Migraine—contains aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine
  • Advil Migraine—contains ibuprofen
  • Motrin Migraine—contains ibuprofen
These drugs also work to control pain and inflammation. Possible side effects include:
  • Rebound headache if pain reliever is taken on a regular basis
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Stomach upset
  • Acetaminophen can cause liver problems if taken with alcohol. Do not take more than the recommended dose.

Other Medications for Treating Migraines

Botulinum Toxin Injections
Botulinum toxin is made from a type of bacteria. The toxin blocks the chemical signals from the nerves to muscles. This will decrease the muscle contraction. Botulinum toxin injections can be used to prevent migraines. This treatment may also help to decrease the duration and intensity of migraines if they do occur.

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:
  • Take your medicines as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not share them.
  • Ask what results and side effects to expect. Report them to your doctor.
  • Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medicines and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
 

References


Dihydroergotamine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.


FDA's MedWatch safety alerts: March 2009. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm142815.htm. Published March 23, 2009. Accessed November 18, 2013.


Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Tools%5Ffor%5FSufferers/Headache%5F-%5FFrequently%5FAsked%5FQuestions. Accessed November 18, 2013.


Migraine in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 17, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.


NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/headache.htm. Updated November 8, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.


Pascual J, El Berdei Y, et al. How many migraine patients need prolonged (>1 year) preventive treatment? Experience with topiramate. J Headache Pain. 2007;8:90-93. Epub 2007 Jan 15.


Sumatriptan. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.


4/23/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Brandes UK, Kurdrow D, et al. Sumatriptan-naproxen for acute treatment of migraine: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2007;297:1443-1454.


7/5/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Mannix LK, Loder E, et al. Rizatriptan for the acute treatment of ICHD-II proposed menstrual migraine: two prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies. Cephalalgia. 2007;27:414-421.


5/14/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Patorno E, Bohn RL, et al. Anticonvulsant medications and the risk of suicide, attempted suicide, or violent death. JAMA. 2010;303(14):1401-1409.


10/25/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Francis GJ, Becker WJ, et al. Acute and preventive pharmacologic treatment of cluster headache. Neurology. 2010;75(5):463-473.


10/25/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: US Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Botox to treat chronic migraine. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm229782.htm. Published October 15, 2010. Accessed November 18, 2013.


2/18/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Serretti A, Mandelli L. Antidepressants and body weight: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 2010;71(10):1259-1272.


3/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Chankrachang S, Arayawichanont A, et al. Prophylactic botulinum type A toxin complex (Dysport) for migraine without aura. Headache. 2011 Jan;51(1):52-63.


5/13/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: US Food and Drug Administration. Valproate anti-seizure products contraindicated for migraine prevention in pregnant women due to decreased IQ scores in exposed children. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm350684.htm. Published May 6, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.

 

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