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Reminding myself of what’s already in my migraine arsenal

If you’ve been dealing with migraine disease for years and have refused to give up on treatments that may work, chances are you have tried a LOT of techniques to improve your health.  Off the top of my head, I can tell you I’ve experimented with the following treatments (some of which I fully committed to, some of which I only dabbled. Note that some of these things involve lifestyle changes, others are preventive measures, and others are acute care measures. I am pretty sure this is not an exhaustive list, though I got pretty exhausted just writing it—until compiling this list, I actually had no idea that I’d tried SO much! They are not presented in any particular order, which sort of reflects how I have gone all over the map over the years in treating these attacks.

Acupuncture Atenelol Lamictal Elavil (amitriptyline)
Propranolol Effexor Zonegran Tiger balm
St. John’s Wort Magnesium glycinate tablets Topical magnesium spray Ben-gay muscle rub
Excedrin Migraine Aleve Ibuprofen Tylenol
B2 (riboflavin) Nutrient 950 Exercise 5 days/week Massage
Therapeutic yoga Mindfulness Energy healing Physical therapy
Imitrex Amerge Maxalt Relpax
Frova Flexeril Aspirin Caffeine
Capsaicin nasal spray Butterbur Omega 3/6 oil Peppermint/lavender oil
Feverfew tea Ice packs Heat packs

(As a side note: the majority of these therapies are mentioned, if not fully described, on  I encourage you to use the search window in the upper-left corner of the website to search for any terms you’re particularly interested in.)

Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about how long I’ve been coping with migraine episodes, from the mild attacks that come and go quickly to the ones that have me violently sick to my stomach, lying on the bathroom floor for days.  Frankly, I am kind of shocked to see the number of things I’ve tried to improve my health (as listed above).

You know how your migraine patterns change as you grow older and introduce new factors in your life?  You know how treatments that were once miraculous suddenly don’t work anymore?  You are NOT alone in these phenomena.

But what if we could flip that issue and get the wiliness of migraine working for us?  What if treatments and techniques that didn’t work for your former iterations of migraine may now work for the migraine patterns you face today?  I know that this was true for me in the case of Imitrex. It was the first migraine-specific medication I tried when I was first diagnosed in 2001, and it was a miracle worker for me then. Over the years, its effectiveness waned and I switched to other triptans.  Imagine my surprise in 2010 or so when my neurologist recommended I try it again, and it worked like a charm!  What a fascinating concept: a medication my migraine had stopped responding to suddenly worked again after a break.

This got me thinking: what other tools in my already-established arsenal might be effective in treating the types of migraine attacks I have now in the year 2014?  Of course I don’t have old prescriptions lying around (that’s a no-no, guys), but I do have non-expired vitamins on hand as well as various tools (both concrete ones like ice packs and more abstract ones like knowledge of mindfulness-based stress reduction and gentle yoga).

I feel empowered this morning. I feel as if perhaps I have some tools in my migraine tool belt that I have neglected for awhile that could still be of use to me, and it won’t hurt to try.

Catch y’all later—I’m strapping on my sneakers and going for one of those walks that improve my quality of life dramatically.

Have you ever stopped a migraine treatment only to discover that, months or years later, it worked again for you? Do you have any tools in your migraine arsenal that may be of help to you now, ones you have neglected for awhile? What skills, vitamins, exercise regimens, or techniques do you have at your disposal this moment that you could give another go?

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


  • RTurner
    5 years ago

    I have run the gamut in the migraine arsenal & at least the availability of docs to me. I have Chronic Debilating migraines. I have tried almost every idea that is in the list. My saving grace is usually a trip to the doc for a “migraine treatment”. Thru my infusa-port (do not have any veins left)I receive Tordal, Benedryl, DHE (double dose because single no longer is enough), Zofran & Dexamethasone. I have now run into a severe problem – my saving grace has caused lung fibrosis. So I now suffer with breathing, extremely fast heart rate & trying to figure out should I increase my pain tolerance to a higher level (truly not sure how much more I can increase it on what I consider “bad” days are) so I can decrease the amount of times I receive my migraine treatments (anywhere from 1-3 times a week)or continue with my current treatments; knowing that soon I will be on oxygen for breathing – (I’m 47) I have a 14 yr old son who has grown up assisting in taking care of me. My two older son’s have no idea what Tyler endures and they give him grief about what he does or worries about. (my goal is to be able to walk on the floor with him when he graduates from HS. When they were young I was able to take care of the older two fully, be a CEO/CFO to a $3m association and find the time to complete all my “chores” without a single thought; it had to be done. I now have an app on my phone to keep me in check as to where I need to be, what I need to do, etc., there is NO more multitasking. I do not see anymore migraine arsenals in my toolkit. So I am now raising the White Flag and calling Uncle. I am going down the path of no return mentally and physically. Where else do I turn?

  • migrainestl
    5 years ago

    Such a good reminder! I find I can respond differently to meds at each attack…sometimes DHE infusions help in the midst, other times it takes days to work, still other times I need 2 doses back to back in same week.

    It’s always an endless option…altho we get down at times & think we’ve tried everything, we must pick each other up & remind us to keep trying!!

  • Holly H.
    5 years ago

    With my side effects, sensitivities/true allergies (the worst reaction was to Toradol, Botox wasn’t much less), and being on two blood pressure meds, there’s “nothing left.” I was hoping that in getting my blood pressure under control, I could try the triptans again; however, my neurologist said that since migraine has become a way of life for the last years instead of events, without being able to take preventatives to go along with the interrupting meds, that is not an option. I wonder if this is a wall anyone else has run into?

  • eamoser
    5 years ago

    I started taking a supplement called Protandin about a year ago. The distributor said it is an NR f2 inhibitor? All I know is since I have been on it (1 pill daily) my migraines have dramatically decreased. I have not stopped taking other meds. I take Frova when I have a migraine. Have had 1 in last year that was truly severe. Before Protandin they were 4-5 a month very severe and an additional 4-5 moderate per month. And this is being on Topamax and propanalol

  • Kim
    5 years ago

    I’ve tried many of the same things you’ve tried over the years, less yoga, less St. Johns Wort for fear of it mixing with my other meds, plus Midrin which is non-existent anymore and plus chiropractic care at times. I love Anne’s creative approach of the pre-printed card of all the things she has already tried! There isn’t a person out there with migraines who hasn’t been told something akin to ‘My cousin had those and took…’ It gets tiresome listening to all those ‘cures’ that, if only we would try them, would fix us right up!

    I’ve experienced a great deal of relief with Relpax over the last few years and, having dealt with drugs losing their efficacy in the past, dread the day that this lovely drug stops working for me. I even attempt to prolong it’s effects by limiting my use of them – trying to head off migraines at times with just Aleve and feverfew. Sometimes that works and I save my precious 12 pills a month, stockpiling them for those migraine storms that will eventually have me in bed for a week at a time or more.

    One of the things that I had gotten away from was the use of ice packs. I have a refrigerator drawer dedicated to a grand collection of sports gel packs.(So much nicer than the old rattling ice pack with the screw cap rolling across your head.) My husband had been getting some headaches from neck strain and asking to use them. I thought, ‘Why don’t I try them again?’ And wouldn’t you know it? Relief. They are my best friends once again. And I can keep my Relpax need down to one every 4-5 days instead of every other. I will always hate migraines but at least I have an arsenal to choose from!

  • thewanderingjew
    5 years ago

    I do not get very severe headaches, although I have headaches very often, usually associated with neck pain, as well. I am amazed that some of my friends have never even had a headache. I just thought it was something universal.
    Some of my headaches have an aura and some do not. I do get optical migraines with stomach upset and dizzy spells, sometimes breathing difficulty, probably brought on from the tension of knowing that a migraine might be coming and a host of other symptoms, least of which is pain which has subsided over the years. My eyesight gets poorer a few days before. My moods get testy and my stomach gets queasy. It simply effects my way of life and has been, since I was 16.
    I tried acupuncture and it worked for a few months and then they came back, sometimes one right after another, sometimes three in a week; the frequency was, and always has been, erratic. I tried acupuncture again with the same results. One time, it actually brought on headaches, but in general, I had a couple of months of no migraines. Then they returned. They seem to come in spurts.
    I am older and they actually disappeared when I went through menopause, then they returned after a car accident with the obligatory whiplash! The neurologist at that time was not helpful. As years passed, I read that soy was a trigger and I was on a soy based diet so I eliminated soy. It lasted for ten weeks and then, boom, back again. My doctor doubled my verapamil, which he believes helps prevent migraines. I take one in the morning and one at night. I also take a diuretic since my first doctor believed my headaches were from water retention. It also helps with the dizzy spells. So you can see, I am all over the place. I have had other prescriptions, fiornal, butalbital, etc.
    When I get the aura, I immediately take aleve (Excedrin migraine doesn’t work nor does advil, for me), and I sometimes take a bonine for motion sickness since it relieves the nausea and the dizziness. Then I sometimes take a low dose xanax and go to sleep, if I can. The aura only lasts about a half hour and from total numbness on one side of my body, even in my tongue, it has morphed today into semi blindness since the middle vision is obstructed by the jagged light and only a tingling in some parts of my face. At least, now, I know it isn’t a stroke.
    I have never been able to isolate a trigger although flickering lights, florescent lights, reading too much on tablets, strobe lights, disco lights, very bright lights like at the ophthalmologist, and of course, stress can bring one on. At least, now that I have been experiencing them for so many years, with so much concern as the symptoms morphed, I am no longer terrified that I am about to die. I try and accept the fact that I have headaches and all these are just the symptoms that go along with them. Fortunately, although the prerequisite symptoms to the optical aura occur for a few days prior, I can deal with them, and they are not disabling. When the optical aura hits, I immediately take medication for pain and stress and then I lie down and try to wait it out or sleep it off.
    My biggest issue with a migraine was the fear of the unknown. Why is this happening? I had an MRI of the brain and optic nerve because of flickering lights I sometimes saw, and the neurological ophthalmologist said all that was unusual were these white spots at the base of the brain which they really didn’t understand at the time, but they were benign, he said. I recently read that they found in many brains of people who suffer migraines.
    Hope this info helps someone! 😀

  • stacysillen
    5 years ago

    MY Arsenal? Hmmm… Botox has to lead now (Thank you God) then Nerve Blocks, Yoga, Magnesium (powdered or in an Epsom Salt bath, heat (not cold) to promote better blood flow in my head, Butalbital my old go-to drug, but now a weapon I don’t want to lean too hard on (“medication over-use headaches”)and always my patient sense of humor.

  • stacysillen
    5 years ago

    Beware Topamax and other anti-convulsants, they can cause osteoporosis, little known fact that is not in the packaging literature

  • eamoser
    5 years ago

    I did not know that! I have been taking 400 mg daily for about 10 yrs with varying success and am now experiencing severe pain in my great toe. Arthritis. I had an appt with podiatrist in 2 weeks.

  • Timothy Bauer
    5 years ago

    To everyone:
    This was a very interesting article by Janet Geddis.
    Have been on Triptans for 15 years-that is not a
    misprint. And definitely noticed my latest triptan
    takes longer and longer to work. Everytime I see
    my neurologist which is about 10 times a year.
    I ask for samples of other triptans. He usually
    has several samples. This is another way one
    can find sample other triptans. Also found that
    nasal triptan drugs are ineffective. One note-
    “never mix” Triptan drugs. If have a migraine
    use only same triptan-whether Treximet, Imitrex,
    Frova, Amerge etc til that migraine passes.
    When the next migraine comes-than can
    use a different triptan. Also if you have
    chronic migraines-many health plans only
    allows a person 9 pills a month. That might
    not be enough. So I encourage everyone to
    ask your neurologist for samples in case
    you are trying to make the 9 pills last for
    a month. Always keep in mind-take medication
    as early as possible-as that leads to
    the greatest success.
    Respectfully-Timothy from Reno, Nevada

  • Piglet
    5 years ago

    Cefaly (Canadian kind) was a miracle for about six weeks but stopped being effective at all. So on the advice of my migraine specialist I laid off for six months. When I tried it again it did not work as well but helps me get to sleep during a bad migraine which is always tough. Toradol shots stop helping if I do it too often. I also had great results with triptans, but they stopped being effective for me after about seven years and never worked again despite long holidays. Most of my treatments work best in rotation but at the moment nothing is helping as well as it did in the early days.

  • onehsancare
    5 years ago

    I must have tried as many options as you have, but I don’t see what has helped me the most on your list–Topamax! Since I’ve been taking it prophylactically, my migraines have been reduced at least in half in number and maybe more in intensity. I feel like I have a life again, although it is still a life with migraine.

  • Anne
    5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing that! I have tried a million things as well. Currently, Relpax, Botox, water with electrolytes and restrictive diet are helping. Although, my Botox is behind schedule and I’ve had 11 migraines already this month 🙁 I think I may have all the things I’ve tried printed on a card, so when someone tells me what I should do for my migraines, I can just hand it to them.

  • pligthart
    5 years ago

    Would you be able to share which of the mentioned remedies or meds were most effective in your point of view? Thank you, Petra

  • Mac
    5 years ago

    Sumatriptan tablets stopped working for me years ago and my life saver Zomig recently failed me. I’d tried other triptans before but out of sheer desperation suggested to my neurologist the sumatriptan nasal spray. I Have no idea what prompted me to go back to the drug again. Its hit or miss, but definately better than nothing.

    Interesting how the body adapts to a medicine over time!

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    5 years ago

    Hi Janet,

    You bring up a really good point. I agree this is something we all can think more about. I often hear ppl say “this or that didn’t work.” But if our migraines are ever changing then our response to treatments can be too. Thank you for reminding us!

    I’ve had imitrex start to give me side effects. So I switched triptans. It’ll be good to know that in the future I could always try imitrex again.


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