Migraines are more than severe headaches – they’re so painful they can be crippling, keeping sufferers from the simplest actions or tasks. And migraines can be difficult to stop once they begin because, according to the American Migraine Foundation¹, migraines are actually a disorder characterized by unpredictable attacks.
Migraine symptoms can last for hours or days, meaning you can miss out on life when you have a migraine. Before a migraine begins, it’s important to understand how you can to treat this disrupting disorder. Here are three ways to alleviate your migraine pain.
1. Over-The-Counter Medication
When a migraine strikes, you likely reach for any medication that promises to help. However, you need to reach for the right medicine: analgesics and NSAIDs.
The most common types of analgesics and NSAIDs you can find at your local drugstore are ibuprofen and acetaminophen, better known by the brand names of Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve. Some of these medications also include caffeine, which can offer relief for migraines specifically.
These pain medications are nonspecific, which means they may not directly help migraines, but they can reduce overall pain in the body. These drugs can also help with headaches that aren’t migraines, which is beneficial if you aren’t sure what you’re experiencing. NSAIDs can be combined with triptans, another medication that’s used to treat migraines, for more effective pain relief.
When a migraine strikes, you may want to take a higher dosage of these over-the-counter medications. A research study published in Patient Related Outcome Measures² found that the dosage for treating migraines is typically higher than the dosage needed for other types of pain.
WebMD³ reports that some of the most common side effects of these medications include:
- Stomach upset
- Stomach bleeding
- Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
- Liver damage
2. Ergotamine (or DHE)
Ergotamine is a medicine that’s been used to treat migraines for more than five decades according to a review in Brain: A Journal of Neurology⁴. It interacts with a variety of receptors in the nervous system and constricts blood vessels to reduce the pain and other symptoms associated with migraines – and it can help soothe even the worst types of migraines.
You’ll most commonly find ergotamine as a medication called dihydroergotamine, or DHE. DHE is not very effective when taken orally, so it’s offered as a nasal spray or injection. This is especially helpful if your migraines cause vomiting, which could make symptoms impossible to treat with oral medication.
DHE is associated with fewer side effects than ergotamine. It can also be used more often than some other acute migraine medications without concern about overuse, according to the American Migraine Foundation⁵.
DHE is must be prescribed or administered by a doctor. While some insurance plans may cover a portion of its cost, GoodRx6 reports that Medicare doesn’t cover DHE – and this medication can cost about $3,179 per month. Try to get your DHE through a prescription discount or national pharmacy program that offers a regular supply at a lower cost to save money.
One of the downsides of DHE is it doesn’t prevent migraines or reduce the frequency of attacks. It simply treats migraines that are already in progress. Some side effects DHE include serious cardiac and cerebrovascular events and increased blood pressure. Other side effects may include dizziness, fatigue, confusion, headache, digestive issues, redness under the skin, tingling, sweating, anxiety, and dermal rash.
Triptans are serotonin receptor agonists that act on migraine-specific pathways. They increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps reduce inflammation and constrict blood vessels.
Triptans are widely available with a prescription. One of the benefits of using triptans to treat migraines is you can switch to a different type if the kind you’re taking isn’t effective. Some common prescription triptans include Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, and Frova.
Most of these pills can be taken orally. Imitrex is available as a nasal spray or injectable. The injectable form acts faster than oral medications, but you can also choose from fast-acting triptans offered as nasal sprays or oral tablets.
These medications don’t prevent migraines, but they can treat one that’s already begun. The best way to administer them is to take them as soon after the onset of migraine symptoms as possible.
The potential side effects of each specific prescription drug brand differ. The National Headache Foundation⁷ reports that the most prevalent side effects of triptans are:
Consumer Reports8 estimates the cost of triptan prescription medications at between $12 and $46 per pill. Some are available as generics, which can significantly lower the cost, while intranasal and injectable versions cost more than oral tablets. Insurance may pay for triptans, although coverage varies widely depending on your health insurance policy.
Find Relief for Every Migraine
Choosing the right medication or treatment option for your acute migraines is absolutely crucial. Without a solution, your terrible migraine symptoms could prevent you from working, enjoying life, and even performing the simplest actions. Don’t let your acute migraines get the best of you – stop them in their tracks with these great treatment choices.
If you’re interested in treating acute migraines, start as search today.