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Migraines: Should You Take Preventive Medication?

What if you could stop a migraine before it even started? For some people, taking medication every day can help prevent migraines and make them less painful when they do occur. Although these medications may not eliminate your migraines entirely, they can provide some relief from chronic migraine pain.

According to the American Headache Society, you may benefit from taking a preventive migraine medication if you: 

  • Have two or more migraines a month that keep you from your work or activities for three or more days per month

  • Have migraines that don't respond to other medications or you can't take other medications for acute treatment

  • Have frequent attacks (more than one a week) 

  • Use a drug 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 medications or use acute medications that make headaches worse 

These are just general guidelines. If you think that preventive medication could help you, talk with your health care provider. Nondrug therapies to prevent migraines should be tried first. These include exercise, relaxation techniques, and a regular sleep schedule.   

Many options available

Many different types of medications can help prevent migraine. Some of the most common include:

  • Antiseizure medicines

  • Beta-blockers 

  • Calcium channel blockers 

  • Hormone replacement therapy

  • Tricyclic antidepressants 

Your health care provider will talk with you about which kind of drug might be best based on your medical history. 

Starting preventive therapy

When you begin taking a preventive medication, your provider will most likely start you off on a low dose and gradually increase it if needed. This will help limit side effects as your body gets used to the drug. If you notice any unusual or unpleasant side effects, tell your health care provider. You may be able to take a different preventive medication. 

It may take up to three months for preventive drugs to help relieve 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 health care provider know. It's also important to talk with your health care provider before stopping a medication. If you stop taking these types of drugs suddenly, you may have more headaches or other side effects.