migraine medications

Effective Migraine Medications and Treatments for Acute Migraine Relief 2023

Effective Migraine Medications and Treatments for Acute Migraine Relief searched for on the internet and migraine is a common and often debilitating neurological disease that affects over 37 million people in the United States. Characterized by severe headache and additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound, migraine attacks can be extremely painful and disrupt daily life. Finding an effective acute treatment to stop migraine attacks quickly is essential for managing this chronic condition.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the most effective medications and treatments available for acute migraine relief. Whether you experience occasional migraine headaches or suffer from chronic migraines, understanding your treatment options is the first step in taking control of your disease and living better.

Overview of Acute Migraine Medications and Treatments

When a migraine attack strikes, the goal is to stop symptoms fast for quick relief. The most common and effective options for treating acute migraine include:

  • Over-the-counter medications – Excedrin Migraine, which contains acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine, is a popular OTC option. Other OTC meds like ibuprofen or naproxen can also help mild to moderate migraine pain.
  • Prescription medications – Triptans like sumatriptan are the gold standard prescription medications specifically developed to treat migraine attacks. Other options include ergotamines and anti-nausea drugs.
  • Devices and supplements – Non-drug treatments like the Cefaly device, magnesium supplements, and ginger can provide relief for some migraine sufferers.
  • Nasal sprays – Fast-acting nasal sprays containing medication like sumatriptan or newer CGRP inhibitors can deliver effective migraine relief.
  • Injections – Sumatriptan injection, administered with an auto-injector device, provides quick absorption and migraine relief within 10 minutes for many patients.
  • Combination therapy – Taking a triptan medication with an NSAID painkiller like naproxen sodium works better than either drug alone for some people.

Understanding how these various acute treatment options work and their potential side effects allows you to make informed decisions with your doctor about the best relief strategy for your particular migraine symptoms.

Triptans – The Gold Standard for Acute Migraine Relief

Triptans are a class of prescription drugs specifically developed to treat migraine attacks. They are considered the most effective prescription options for acute migraine relief.

How Do Triptans Stop Migraine Symptoms?

Triptans work by stimulating serotonin receptors and reversing the vasodilation or swelling of blood vessels in the brain that causes migraine pain. This helps narrow widened blood vessels and blocks the transmission of pain signals.

The benefits of triptans include:

  • Provide migraine relief within 1-2 hours
  • Effective for pain, nausea, sensitivity to light/sound
  • Available as tablets, nasal sprays, injections
  • Well tolerated by most patients

Most Common Triptan Medications

Some of the most widely prescribed triptans for treating acute migraine attacks include:

  • Sumatriptan – Available as tablets, nasal spray, injection pen. Works fast.
  • Rizatriptan – Tablets that relief migraine in under 2 hours.
  • Naratriptan – Tablets tending to have fewer side effects.
  • Zolmitriptan – Nasal spray and tablets relieve migraine for some in 30 minutes.
  • Eletriptan – Effective tablets with few drug interactions.

Side Effects of Triptans

Possible side effects of triptans may include:

  • Nausea, dizziness, fatigue
  • Sensations of tingling, heat, heaviness
  • Chest or throat tightness (rare)

They are generally well tolerated but people with risk of cardiovascular problems should use caution when taking triptans. Talk to your doctor about any side effects you experience.

Are Triptans Right for You?

Triptans are considered effective and safe for most adults with migraine disease. They provide quick relief of moderate to severe migraine pain as well as nausea and hypersensitivity to light and sound that often accompany attacks.

If over-the-counter medications are not getting the job done, talk to your doctor about trying triptan therapy for acute migraine relief. Take them at the first sign of a migraine attack for fastest relief.

Fast Relief: Migraine Nasal Sprays and Injections

When you’re struck with a debilitating migraine, getting medicine into your system ASAP is a priority. Migraine nasal sprays and injections get medication into the bloodstream quickly without being delayed by absorbing pills through the digestive system.

How Do Migraine Nasal Sprays Work?

Nasal sprays are administered with a device that delivers a mist of migraine medication like sumatriptan to the lining of the nose where it is rapidly absorbed. Benefits of migraine nasal sprays include:

  • Deliver relief within 15 minutes for many patients
  • Easy to use any time, anywhere
  • Avoid nausea/vomiting issues with taking oral meds

The most common prescription nasal spray for migraine relief is sumatriptan, available under the brand names Immitrex or Tosymra. The recently approved Zavegepant nasal spray is a promising new option that relieves migraine without the risks of triptans.

What About Migraine Injection Pens?

Sumatriptan injection pens like Alsuma, Imitrex Statdose, or Zembrace use auto-injectors to quickly deliver a dose of medication under the skin.

Benefits of migraine injection medication include:

  • Immediate relief – 10 minutes for many people
  • Direct delivery into the bloodstream
  • Helpful when nausea makes taking oral meds difficult

Sumatriptan injections tend to be reserved for severe migraine that doesn’t respond to other acute treatments since injections can cause more side effects like injection site pain.

Are Fast Acting Migraine Meds Right for You?

For those who need ultra-fast relief during severe migraine attacks, nasal sprays and injections get medication working quickly without waiting for oral tablet absorption.

Talk to your doctor about whether a fast acting nasal spray or injection might be an appropriate acute treatment option if you struggle with:

  • Migraines that escalate quickly in severity
  • Vomiting that prevents taking oral medication
  • Need to treat attacks wherever they strike

Over-the-Counter Medication Options for Migraine

When migraine strikes, reaching for an over-the-counter medication may help mild to moderate attacks. Two of the most common OTC options include:

Excedrin Migraine

This combination medication contains:

  • Acetaminophen – Reduces pain
  • Aspirin – Reduces inflammation
  • Caffeine – Improves absorption

Excedrin Migraine provides relief for some migraine sufferers, especially when taken with an anti-nausea medication. It may cause stomach upset in some people due to the aspirin component.

NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can ease migraine symptoms:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Naproxen sodium (Aleve)

These may work best for mild migraines or in combination with other medications. NSAIDs can cause side effects like stomach bleeding with long-term frequent use.

Should You Try OTC Migraine Medication?

For those with milder migraine attacks, OTC meds can offer affordable relief. They may work best along with anti-nausea medication and avoiding migraine triggers. Talk to your doctor if:

  • OTC meds are not relieving your migraine pain
  • You have frequent attacks
  • You need to take OTC meds very often

You may need a preventive daily medication or stronger abortive migraine medication. Don’t write off prescription meds – they could be key to real migraine relief.

Treating Migraine Nausea for Better Relief

Nausea and vomiting frequently accompany migraine headaches, making relief a challenge. Taking medication that also addresses migraine nausea can boost the effectiveness of pain-relieving treatments.

Anti-Nausea Medication Options

Prescription medication options to treat migraine nausea include:

Metoclopramide – Available as oral tablets or injection Prochlorperazine – Oral tablets or rectal suppositories Chlorpromazine – Taken as tablets Ondansetron – Orally dissolving tablets

These anti-emetic drugs work by blocking dopamine, histamine, and serotonin receptors that trigger nausea and vomiting. Adding one to your acute migraine treatment plan can help you better absorb and keep down oral medication.

Should You Ask Your Doctor About Anti-Nausea Meds?

If throwing up is a consistent part of your migraine attacks, getting those symptoms under control is key to effective relief. Discuss adding an anti-nausea medication with your doctor if:

  • You frequently vomit during migraine attacks
  • Nausea prevents you from keeping down oral medication
  • Debilitating nausea persists even after taking pain meds

Finding the right anti-nausea medication – or a nausea-reducing triptan – may significantly improve results from your go-to acute migraine treatments.

Devices and Supplements for Migraine Relief

In addition to medication, some patients find relief from migraine symptoms using devices, supplements, and natural treatments. While not as well studied as prescription drugs, they may be beneficial for some.

Cefaly Device

This battery-powered device worn around the head stimulates the trigeminal nerve to reduce migraine pain. Daily use may help prevent attacks. It does not eliminate the need for abortive migraine medication to stop attacks.

Magnesium Supplements

Some studies suggest magnesium deficiency may worsen migraine symptoms. Oral supplements like magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate may help reduce migraine frequency for some patients.


Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties that may block processes involved in migraine. Consuming ginger powder, ginger supplements, or ginger tea may ease migraine nausea for some people.

Are Alternative Migraine Treatments For You?

Devices and supplements generally have few side effects and for some may offer additional relief for migraine symptoms. Those eager to avoid prescription medications may want to try them first. However, most patients will still need traditional medications to effectively treat acute migraine attacks.

When to See a Doctor for Migraine Treatment

Migraine is a complex neurological disease that affects patients differently. Finding your optimal treatment approach takes time, patience, and expert help. See a doctor if:

  • Your migraines are increasing in frequency or severity
  • Over-the-counter medications are not giving you satisfactory relief
  • Migraine attacks disrupt work, school, or relationships
  • You experience any warning signs or migraine complications

A headache specialist or neurologist can help diagnose your particular type of migraine, get to the root triggers, and design a personalized treatment plan to effectively manage your attacks. Don’t lose hope – with the right treatments, real relief is possible!

The Takeaway: Effective Relief IS Available for Migraine Attacks

Living with migraines may feel hopeless and frustrating at times. But substantial progress has been made in understanding the disease and developing effective abortive treatments that can stop migraine attacks in their tracks and restore normal function.

From OTC medications to cutting-edge CGRP blocking nasal sprays, you and your doctor now have more tools than ever to design a treatment plan tailored for your specific symptoms and needs. Finding the right abortive relief strategy takes perseverance through trial and error, but relief is within reach.

With a joint commitment from you and your doctor to never give up, you can enjoy more migraine-free days and take back control of your life. The pain does not have to control you.

Frequently Asked Questions about Migraine

Q: What is acute treatment of migraine?

A: Acute treatment of migraine refers to the medications and therapies that are used to provide relief from a migraine attack when it occurs.

Q: Which medications are commonly used for the acute treatment of migraine in adults?

A: The most commonly used medications for the acute treatment of migraine in adults include triptans, such as sumatriptan and rizatriptan, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.

Q: What is migraine prevention?

A: Migraine prevention involves strategies and treatments that are aimed at reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. These can include lifestyle changes, such as identifying triggers and avoiding them, as well as medications that are specifically designed for preventing migraines.

Q: What is an aura in relation to migraines?

A: An aura is a set of sensory disturbances that some people with migraines experience before the onset of the headache. These disturbances can include visual disturbances, such as seeing flashing lights or blind spots, as well as other symptoms like tingling sensations or difficulty speaking.

Q: What is the role of preventive treatment in managing migraines?

A: Preventive treatment for migraines is used to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. It is typically recommended for individuals who experience frequent migraines, or those whose migraines are significantly impacting their quality of life.

Q: What are the common side effects of migraine medications?

A: Common side effects of migraine medications can vary depending on the specific medication used. Some common side effects include nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, and fatigue.

Q: What are the treatments available for migraine?

A: There are several treatments available for migraines, including acute medications for relieving the pain and symptoms during an attack, as well as preventive medications and lifestyle changes for reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

Q: What is hemiplegic migraine?

A: Hemiplegic migraine is a rare form of migraine that is characterized by temporary paralysis or weakness on one side of the body. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as vision changes, difficulty speaking, and sensory disturbances.

Q: How are acute migraine attacks diagnosed and treated?

A: Acute migraine attacks are typically diagnosed based on the individual’s symptoms and medical history. Treatment can involve the use of specific migraine medications, as well as lifestyle changes and other therapies to relieve symptoms and prevent future attacks.

Q: What are some serious side effects of migraine medications?

A: While rare, some serious side effects of migraine medications can include chest pain, shortness of breath, severe allergic reactions, and changes in vision. These should be reported to a healthcare professional immediately.

Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360207

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