Migraine Medications: Pills for Prevention and Relief

Whilst migraine is not a curable condition, certain medications can help to either prevent an attack, or relieve an attack's symptoms.
women taking a pill with a glass of water

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This is no medical advice. The need and dosage for migraine medication should be discussed with your health care professional.

There is currently no cure for migraine. But that doesn’t mean a life with migraine is a life with untreatable, unavoidable symptoms. There are many options available to help you live with the condition. This means a life as comfortable and fulfilling as you deserve. One of these options is migraine medications.

Drugs can ease the experience of an attack for you or your family. They can even reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. We can split the medications that are currently available for the treatment of migraine into two groups. There are medications for relief and medications for prevention.

Medications for Relief

Medications for relief reduce the pain of an attack. Most of the time, it is best if you use them as soon as you feel an attack approaching. Of course, this will always differ from person to person. But as soon as you feel a symptom that usually leads to an attack, it is best to take the medication to help manage the experience. Here are some common medications to help bring about relief:

  • Pain Relievers Pain-relievers (or painkillers) are perhaps the most common form of medication used to help handle migraine. Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help reduce the symptoms of your attack. Tablets that you dissolve into water (soluble painkillers) can be a good way of getting quick relief as they absorb more quickly. It is important to remember that children should not take aspirin. It is, however, safe for adults to use if they are experiencing a migraine attack.
  • Anti-sickness medications – Anti-sickness medications can help deal with nausea induced by migraine but can also help deal with the pain of an attack. For the most part, they are not available over-the-counter. Your GP, however, can prescribe them. They come in tablet form and include: chlorpromazine, metoclopramide (Reglan) or prochlorperazine (Compro). These big names may be daunting, but don’t worry! A GP will, of course, direct you to the medication that is most suitable for you.

Preventative Medications

While medications for relief will be a key part of managing your pain, there are preventative medications that your doctor can prescribe if you have recurring, long-lasting, frequent, and severe attacks that aren’t helped by the treatments we previously discussed. These are preventative medications. They reduce the seriousness of attacks, how long they go on for, and how frequently you get them. Here are some options that your doctor may recommend to you:

  • Blood pressure-lowering medications – your doctor may prescribe you medication to lower your blood pressure. This might sound a little strange. But this is because this type of medication can reduce your stress! Some are known as ‘beta-blockers,’ most commonly under the name of ‘propranolol’ or ‘metoprolol tartrate’.
  • Antidepressants – alternatively, you may be described an antidepressant in order to prevent your migraines. Most commonly, this will be a specific form of antidepressant known as a ‘tricyclic antidepressant,’ sometimes under the name of ‘amitriptyline.’ Doctors may be wary of this method due to possible side-effects, such as drowsiness.

It is always worth discussing with your doctor possible treatment and medications routes, in order to ensure that you are getting the best possible care when living with migraine.

Continue learning about migraine medication for children: Parent Online Course

Your child lives with migraine? It’s not always easy to find migraine medication for young people but they exist. Find out more in our Parent Online Course.

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NHS on Migraine Treatment

NHS on Migraine Prevention


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