Effectiveness of Migraine Treatment

Although millions of people – 37 million in the U.S. alone by some estimates – suffer from migraines, unfortunately migraine treatment isn’t always effective.

In fact, more than half of migraine sufferers endure the head pain and other migraine symptoms without seeking the help of a migraine specialist or other doctor.

For decades and perhaps centuries, researchers and physicians have searched for remedies and in some cases a combination of migraine treatments to effectively prevent as well as abruptly stop migraine attacks.

Correctly diagnosing the cause of the migraine symptoms is the first step to finding effective migraine treatment. Keeping a migraine journal to write down information related to each migraine attack will help determine if indeed you suffer from migraines and what type of migraine is responsible for your discomfort. Once treatment begins, use the diary to record at what point during the migraine attack medication is taken and how effective the treatment is in relieving symptoms, since migraine sufferers may have to try more than one treatment regimen to find one that works for them.

Migraine sufferers are often advised to use the migraine journal to figure out their migraine triggers so that they can avoid them. Avoiding triggers and practicing overall healthy behaviors – such as getting enough sleep and eating regularly – along with medication is considered the most effective way to treat migraines.

A 2007 study by the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Advisory Group found that a quarter of patients who would have benefited from preventive, or prophylactic, migraine treatments were not offered them by their doctors.

A small survey of headache specialists asked to rate the importance of different factors that helped them determine which will be the first migraine treatment they prescribe. Doctors rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning “vitally important.”

The results:

Factor & Mean rating

Headache-related disability : 9.0

Severity of the migraine pain : 8.4

Additional diseases or conditions : 7.9

Pattern of symptoms : 7.3

Type of migraine : 5.7

Effectiveness of acute treatments

Acute treatments, which are also called abortive, are those taken to quickly stop a migraine attack in progress. One study in 2000 found that 75 percent of patients taking high-dose aspirin along with metoclopramide didn’t get the relief they sought.


Effectiveness of preventive treatments

One 1997 study found that the three most common prophylactic agents haven’t been shown to convincingly prevent migraines. The three most common are propranolol (brand name Inderal), amitriptyline (sold under the brand names Elavil, Tryptizol, Laroxyl and Sarotex) and verapamil (brand names Isoptin, Verelan, Verelan PM, Calan, Bosoptin, Covera-HS). When compared to placebo, the benefit of the prescription prevention treatments was not 50 percent better than an inactive placebo, which is also called a dummy or sham pill.

Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
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