Acute Migraine Treatment

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Migraine medications for acute symptom relief

When head pain and other migraine symptoms begin to take over, acute treatment medications, such as abortive or rescue medications, are taken to stop the migraine attack and provide immediate symptom relief.

The best time to take these medications is at the very first sign that a migraine is coming. These treatments usually work best in the early stages of a migraine attack when the symptoms haven’t grown to full force.

The goal of acute treatment for migraines

When migraine symptoms begin, acute treatment is designed to quickly relieve the pain and migraine symptoms. Ideally, these medications should consistently ease symptoms and keep them away for at least 24 hours. Side effects of the treatment are also a concern and will help determine which medication is best for you.

The U.S. Headache Consortium Guidelines listed the following goals for successful acute treatment of migraine attacks:

  • Treat attacks rapidly and consistently without recurrence
  • Restore the patient’s ability to function
  • Minimize the use of backup and rescue medication
  • Optimize self-care and reduce subsequent use of resources
  • Be cost effective for overall management
  • Have minimal or no side effects

For patients whose migraine symptoms include severe nausea or vomiting, oral medications aren’t recommended because they may not stay down long enough to work. If your symptoms include severe nausea or vomiting, you may consider non-oral medications such as nasal sprays or oral melts. Using anti-emetics, drugs which may ease naseau and vomiting, in conjunction with your medications may also be an option to discuss with your doctor.

Doctors also recommend against using many acute treatment medications more than twice a week. More frequent use may lead to medication overuse, or rebound, headache.

Keeping a migraine journal will help the doctor determine the severity of migraine attacks and give the migraine specialist a better understanding of which medications may work best.

Many different types of medications are used for acute migraine treatment, some of which include:

  1. Triptans
  2. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  3. DHE 45
  4. Ergotamines
  5. Narcotic, or opioid, analgesics
  6. Nasal sprays
  7. Others