Taking Analgesics at the First Sign of a Migraine
For migraine sufferers, prompt treatment can often keep the pain from becoming severe. Here are a few tips to help you understand when it’s advisable to take medication.
Researchers have found around 70% of migraine sufferers in one study had noticeable symptoms prior to migraine pain attacks that could be used to predict a migraine developing.1 The three most common early predictor symptoms were fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and a stiff neck.1
Other signs of an approaching migraine can also include:2
- Problems with vision
- Feeling irritable or depressed
- Feeling unusually energetic
- Food cravings
- Numbness and tingling
- Difficulty in speaking.
Over-the-counter medications can be useful for migraine pain relief.2, 3, 4 For stronger pain relief, prescription drugs may be needed.4 Some people find combination analgesics work well for their migraine pain, these are medicines that combine codeine and/or caffeine with common pain relievers such as aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen.
However, frequent use of these combination medicines may also cause a rebound effect known as “chronic daily headache” or “medicine overuse headache,” which lasts at least 15 days out of a month, for at least three months.5 If you are taking analgesics for three or more days a week on average, talk to a healthcare professional.5
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers too late – after a migraine attack has already presented itself as pain – can also decrease their effectiveness.2 During a migraine, the digestive system slows down, which can reduce the speed or efficiency of how the drug is absorbed by the body.2
It can help to take these medications in soluble or liquid form.2. In addition, if you learn to recognize your personal early warning signs, this will enable you to take your medicine as soon as possible, in order to further reduce the chance of a full-blown migraine.
Other things that may help when migraine symptoms begin include drinking a full glass of water at the first sign of an attack to avoid dehydration, especially if you vomit during a migraine.3 Resting or sleeping in a dark quiet room can also bring relief.3 Other patients find that “mechanical” treatments, such as pressure or massage of the neck and/or temples, and changes in temperature, help reduce the severity of migraine pain.6 Both heat and cold application can help, so experiment to see what works best for you.6
- Giffin NJ, et al. Premonitory symptoms in migraine: An electronic diary study.
Neurology 2003; 60: 935-940. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed.
- Lifting the burden. Information for people affected by migraine. Available at: http://www.w-h-a.org/assets/0/E0E0E230-E5CC-D51C-5D382D5DEFA369DA_document/What_is_migraine.pdf.
- US Medline Plus. Migraine. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000709.htm.
- Treatment and management. M.A.G.N.U.M. Migraine Awareness Group. http://www.migraines.org/treatment/treatctm.htm
- Lifting the Burden. Information for people affected by chronic daily headache. Available at: http://www.l-t-b.org/assets/46/914A6C7E-CED1-BB99-72C30EF025F90A0E_document/What_is_Chronic_Daily_Headache.pdf.
- UK The Migraine Trust. Treatment. Available at: http://www.migrainetrust.org/C2B/document_tree/ViewADocument.asp?ID=28&CatID=24