Treatment for migraine headaches can be categorized into two types. One is pain relieving, and the other is preventive.
Pain relief medication includes over-the-counter medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, which can relieve mild migraines. These kinds of medicines are not advisable for the long term, because they can cause both overuse, or rebound, headaches, and, with prolonged use, can cause gastrointestinal issues and ulcers.
Other kinds of pain-relieving medicines include triptans, which make blood vessels constrict to block pain, and ergots, which seem to be effective for sufferers whose headaches last longer than two days. These medicines require prescriptions, and your doctor at the St. Luke’s Headache Center will advise you as to their efficacy for your condition.
A homeopathic over-the-counter medicine to try is a severe headache and migraine nasal spray called Ausanil. Once a headache starts, this spray, which uses capsicum annuum — the raw extract of the chili pepper plant — can help stop the pain with no adverse drug interactions in under 10 minutes, according to some patients who have used it.
Methods of pain relief include icing your neck or the part of your head that’s affected, if you can. Even pulling your hair — gently — can help, as it improves blood circulation to the scalp and may alleviate tension in your head.
The other type of treatment is preventive. You might want to consider this kind of treatment or medication if you get four or more migraines a month, your symptoms include protracted auras and weakness, and pain relievers are not working.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has had success with migraine patients, especially children. This practical, goal-oriented therapy helps patients find the attitudes, thinking, and behavior behind their difficulties, change those patterns, and so change the way they feel. With migraines, CBT strives to lessen the sphere of influence of a migraine. Often, patients who have migraines experience great stress, for example, in just making plans, because they don’t know when an attack will strike. This therapy can help modify that fear and anxiety, making it easier to participate in social commitments, work, and special occasions.
Classes of medications in the preventive category include beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, both of which are more commonly used to treat high blood pressure and coronary artery disease; one medication from the tricyclic class of antipressants; and anti-seizure medicines. Botox has also proven effective for migraines; the treatment involves an injection into the neck about every three months.