Migraines | Treatment


How are migraines treated?

There are 2 types of medicines for migraine treatments. One type focuses on relieving the headache pain. This type of treatment should be started as soon as you think you're getting a migraine. The other type includes medicines that are used to prevent headaches before they occur.

Can nonprescription medicines help relieve the pain?

Yes. Nonprescription medicines that can help relieve migraine pain include aspirin; acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol); an acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine combination (one brand name: Excedrin Migraine); ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin); naproxen (brand name: Aleve); and ketoprofen (brand name: Orudis KT).

What about prescription medicines?

People who have more severe pain may need prescription medicine. A medicine called ergotamine can be effective alone or combined with other medicines. Dihydroergotamine is related to ergotamine and can be helpful.

Other prescription medicines for migraines include sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, eletriptan and frovatriptan.

If the pain won't go away, stronger medicine may be needed, such as a narcotic, or medicines that contain a barbiturate. These medicines can be habit-forming and should be used cautiously.

Tips on reducing the pain

  • Lie down in a dark, quiet room.
  • Put a cold compress or cloth over your forehead.
  • Massage your scalp using a lot of pressure.
  • Put pressure on your temples.


Headaches in Children and Adolescents by DW Lewis, M.D. (American Family Physician February 15, 2002, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020215/625.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 09/10
Created: 01/96