Updated: Sep 8
Migraine is a neurological condition characterized by recurring headaches, often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances. It can significantly impact a person's quality of life. While there is no cure for migraines, medications are available to help manage the symptoms and reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks.
I have done hours of research to accumulate the best known side effects for each of the medications listed in this article. This is by no means an all-inclusive list and you should consult with your Medical Doctor if you are concerned about any of the side effects.
I am writing this to make you aware of potential side effects to some of the commonly prescribed medications/drugs provided for migraine relief.I understand that migraines are a debilitating ailment to deal with. However, it’s important to educate yourself on potential risks and side effects of medications that are prescribed to you.
So without further ado, let’s explore the top five medications prescribed for migraines and discuss their common side effects.
Triptans are a class of drugs commonly prescribed for the acute treatment of migraines. These will typically be prescribed on an “as needed” basis or when you begin to feel a migraine coming on. They work by temporarily constricting blood vessels in the brain and reducing inflammation. Commonly prescribed triptans include sumatriptan, rizatriptan, and eletriptan. While generally well-tolerated in the short term, some potential side effects of triptans may include:
Mild dizziness or drowsiness
Flushing or sensations of warmth
Nausea or vomiting
Tingling or numbness
Chest tightness or pressure
Fatigue or weakness
Beta blockers are typically used to treat high blood pressure but have also shown effectiveness in migraine prevention. These medications, such as propranolol and metoprolol, work by reducing blood pressure and heart rate, thus potentially reducing the frequency and intensity of migraines. Common side effects may include:
Fatigue or drowsiness
Low blood pressure
Slow heart rate
Cold hands or feet
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Upset stomach or diarrhea
Depression or mood changes
Certain antidepressant medications, such as amitriptyline and venlafaxine, have proven effective in preventing migraines, particularly in individuals with comorbid depression or anxiety. These drugs work by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Some potential side effects of antidepressants used for migraines include:
Some anti-seizure medications, such as topiramate and valproate, have been found to be effective in preventing migraines. These medications work by temporarily stabilizing the electrical activity in the brain. Common side effects may include:
Drowsiness or dizziness
Nausea or upset stomach
Weight loss or gain
Mood changes or irritability
Hair loss or thinning
Shaking and Tremors
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, are commonly used for acute migraine relief. These medications work by reducing inflammation and relieving pain. While generally safe, prolonged or excessive use of NSAIDs can lead to certain side effects, such as:
Upset stomach or heartburn
Stomach ulcers or bleeding
Increased risk of cardiovascular events
Allergic reactions (rare)
If you are currently taking multiple medications, I would strongly advise you to consult within your doctor on possible drug interactions and effects of these interactions. “Rebound headaches” or “medication overuse headaches” are a real problem and are something I see very frequently in my migraine patients.
The management of migraines should include a combination of treatments since migraines are typically a multifactorial problem.
Aside from medications, there are several supplements that have been proven to have similar benefits to preventing/reducing migraine headaches. Read more about them in my other blog post, here: https://www.pierceuc.com/blog/categories/migraine
As always, I hope this information is helpful to you or someone you may know who is suffering from migraine. And, I’m here to help support you on your journey to wellness.
In good health,
Dr. Randy J Culig
About the Author
Dr. Culig, DCCJP is an upper cervical spinal specialist located in Atlanta, GA. He became interested in migraines because his younger sister suffered from them since she was 13 years old. He began to seek out natural ways to treat migraines without the use of drugs or surgery. As a Doctor of Upper Cervical Chiropractic, he has spent over 300 hours in post-graduate courses regarding migraine and has successfully treated hundreds of migraine patients. He has a diplomate in the craniocervical junction (DCCJP) which is a 3-year post graduate program focused on the upper cervical spine and related neurovascular conditions such as Migraine, Trigeminal Neuralgia and Vertigo.