Migraine Medications and Those Pesky Side Effects

Migraine medications have potential side effects just as any other medications do. Medication side effects are the subject of many of the questions I’m asked. It’s perfectly normal to be curious and concerned about side effects.

So, let’s talk about medication side effects, their implications, and how to best deal with them.

Always check for potential side effects before taking a medication. This is something to ask our doctors when we’re given a prescription. Ask what the possible side effects are and when those side effects indicate it’s time to call the doctor. A patient information sheet should be provided at the pharmacy when picking up prescriptions. Those should be read, then filed away for future reference.

Remember that side effects are potential side effects. We may or may not experience them. As difficult as it may be, we need to start new medications with the positive attitude that we will not experience side effects. Have you ever heard of the principle of self-fulfilling prophecy? It applies here, showing a time when our minds can indeed overpower our bodies. Essentially, it means that if we start taking a new medications thinking that we’re going to experience side effects, we most likely will. In medicine, this is called the nocebo effect, and its existence has been proven in controlled studies. Patients were given a medication and warned of potential side effects. In reality, they were given placebo tablets (“sugar pills”), but many experienced the negative side effects that were described to them. This shows the importance of a positive outlook when trying a new medication.

Keep in mind that side effects are often temporary. Many side effects will stop as our bodies become accustomed to the medication. Side effects may last a matter of days or weeks. If they last more than two weeks or are severe or especially bothersome, a call to the doctor is in order. When we increase the dosage of a medication, we can experience side effects, whether we’ve experienced them before or not. Again, these side effects are often temporary.

Make notes about side effects. It’s easy for days and details to run together, leaving us unclear about when we experience side effects and which ones we experience. When starting a new medication, it’s helpful to keep notes about what side effects, if any, we experience and on which days.

When possible, start only one new medication at a time. If we start more than one new medication at the same time, and we experience side effects, we can’t know which one is causing the side effects. For this reason, it’s best not to start more than one new medication at a time. If our doctors prescribe multiple new medications, it’s a good idea to ask about starting them one at a time with a week or two between them.

The bottom line:
All medications, including over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements, have potential side effects. We need to know the potential side effects before starting medications as well as which side effects are serious and a reason to call our doctors. If we experience side effects, they may be temporary. If they continue, a conversation with our doctors is in order to weigh the benefits of the medication against the problems of the side effects. If side effects are severe enough to warrant discontinuing medications, the doctor who prescribed them should be consulted prior to stopping the medication.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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