Migraines: Should You Take Preventive Medicine?
What if you could stop a migraine before it even started? For some people, taking
medicine every day can help prevent migraines and make them less painful when they
do occur. These medicines may not get rid of your migraines entirely. But they can
provide some relief from chronic migraine pain.
You may benefit from taking a preventive migraine medicine if you:
Have 2 or more migraines a month that keep you from your work or activities for 3
or more days per month
Have migraines that don't respond to other medicines or you can't take other medicine
for acute treatment
Have frequent attacks (more than 1 a week)
Use a medicine such as a triptan or ergotamine more than twice a week to stop migraines
Have migraines with a prolonged aura
Have been diagnosed with a severe type of migraine, such as a hemiplegic migraine
Have a long-term history of frequent, excessive use of pain medicine or use acute
medicines that make headaches worse
Have menstrual migraines
These are just general guidelines. If you think that preventive medicine could help
you, talk with your healthcare provider. Nonmedicine therapies to prevent migraines
should be tried first. These include exercise, relaxation techniques, and a regular
Many options available
Many different types of medicines can help prevent migraine. Some of the most common
Calcium channel blockers
Hormone replacement therapy
Antibody therapy that attacks inflammatory proteins
Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which kind of medicine might be
best based on your health history. It's especially important to discuss side effects
of each treatment, both short- and long-term, interactions with other medicines, medicine
overuse headaches (rebound headaches), as well as possible withdrawal symptoms when
you stop the medicine.
Starting preventive therapy
When you start a preventive medicine, your provider will most likely start you off
on a low dose and slowly increase it if needed. This will help limit side effects
as your body gets used to the medicine. If you have any abnormal or unpleasant side
effects, tell your healthcare provider. You may be able to take a different preventive
It may take up to 3 months for preventive medicines to help ease migraines. Keeping
a headache diary before and after starting treatment may help you keep track of how
well the medicine is working. If you don't notice an improvement, let your healthcare
provider know. It's also important to talk with your provider before stopping a medicine.
If you stop taking these types of medicines suddenly, you may have more headaches
or other side effects.