25 Migraine Treatments, Preventive Medications & Abortive Medications

Medical treatment

Migraine medications can relieve the pain and symptoms of a migraine attack and help prevent further migraine attacks.

Migraines can be treated with two types of medication: abortifacient and preventive.

Abortive: The goal of abortive treatment is to stop a migraine once it has started. Abortive drugs stop a migraine when you feel one coming or once it has started. Abortion medications can be taken by self-injection, by mouth, by skin patch, or by nasal spray. These forms of medication are especially helpful for people who have nausea or vomiting related to their migraine, and they work quickly.

Abortion treatments include triptans and ditans, which specifically target serotonin. They are all very similar in their action and chemical structure. Triptans are used only to treat headaches and do not relieve pain caused by back problems, arthritis, menstruation, or other conditions. People with certain medical conditions should not take these medications.

The following drugs are also used for treatment:

The following medications are sometimes used for migraine-related nausea, in addition to migraine treatment:

Some medications are used for headaches, but are not specific to migraines. These include painkillers, narcotics and barbiturates. Since some of them can be habit-forming, they are less desirable than the specific headache medications listed above. These medications should be used primarily as a “backup” for occasions when a specific medication does not work.

Preventive: This type of treatment is considered if migraines occur frequently, usually more than once a week, or if migraine symptoms are severe. The goal is to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Medicines to prevent a migraine can be taken daily. Preventive treatment drugs include the following:

Some non-traditional complementary treatments for migraine prevention include PA-free certified butterbur, coenzyme Q10 and feverfew. It’s unclear if they really help, as studies have shown mixed results. Consult your doctor before using supplements because they are not regulated like prescription drugs and they may contain substances that are not safe.

If you can’t take medication or don’t want to, a device might be worth considering. These include:

  • Cefaly, a small headband that sends electrical impulses through the forehead to stimulate a nerve linked to migraines
  • Spring TMS or eNeura sTM, a device for people who have an aura before migraines. You hold it to the back of your head at the first sign of a headache, and it emits a magnetic pulse that stimulates part of the brain.
  • Non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator (nVS) gammaCore is a portable, hand-held device placed over the vagus nerve in the neck. It releases mild electrical stimulation in nerve fibers to relieve pain.
  • Nerivio, a wireless remote electrical neuromodulation device that is automatically applied to the upper arm and should be used at home as soon as a migraine appears.

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