Migraines are neurological in origin and are disabling and extremely painful. They are known for:
- Throbbing and pounding head pain usually in one part of the head
- Sensitivity to certain smells, loud noises, and bright lights
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Visual disturbances
Some people may have an aura that comes on as a warning sign about an hour before an actual migraine hits. Migraines can cause you to not be able to go to work or perform your usual daily activities.
Visiting your primary care doctor or headache specialist will often result in leaving their office with a prescription of some sort of pain medication. Medications can help you to feel better. However, they can also have dangerous side effects. If they are not taken properly, they can do real damage. If you opt to take medication to help with the pain, it is vital for you to carefully read and follow all instructions on the label.
The medications used to care for migraines fall into one of two categories:
- Medications to stop migraines (acute care). If your migraines fall into the category of mild to moderate, it may be suggested that you start out with an over-the-counter drug to counteract the pain. These generally have fewer side effects than prescription drugs. If this does not work, other prescription drugs may be recommended. A mixture of over-the-counter and prescription medications may be recommended. For example, acetaminophen or naproxen may be taken with a prescription medicine like triptan.
- Medications to prevent migraines (preventative care). These are taken on a daily basis to help stop migraines before they begin. These are usually recommended if you are having more than 15 migraines in a week’s time. These drugs can take several weeks or months to become effective. They are often used for other conditions but have been seen to be helpful for migraines too.
Let’s take a closer look at what these drugs are and what the common side effects can be.
Drugs for Acute Care
It is important to realize if you are taking any of these drugs more than 2 times a week, it can lead to rebound or medication overuse headaches. This type of a headache can be more intense than actual migraines, and the only way to get rid of them is to stop taking medication entirely.
- Painkillers: Some over-the-counter painkillers can be used for migraines but many are only available via a prescription. In addition to Tylenol (an analgesic that only relieves pain), there are drugs which are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that relieve pain and reduce inflammation:
*Some of the above drugs may be marketed for migraines specifically when combined with a small dose of caffeine to help them work more quickly and effectively. This is especially helpful for mild migraines.
Side Effects (long-term use)
- Heart attack
- Kidney damage
- Stomach ulcers
- Ergotamines: These drugs cause blood vessels around your brain to contract, leading to a reduction in migraine pain.
- Ergotamine and caffeine
Side effects of these drugs can be very dangerous. They can be toxic if taken in high doses and cause birth defects and heart problems. Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have heart disease should not take these drugs. They may interact with other drugs such as antifungal and antibiotic medications.
- Triptans: These increase the levels of serotonin in your brain, which reduces inflammation and constricts blood vessels, relieving migraines.
- Sumatriptan and naproxen
- Tightness or discomfort in your throat or chest
- Tingling or numbness in your toes
Those with heart problems or at risk of stroke should not take triptans. They can cause the potentially fatal serotonin syndrome if taken with other drugs that increase serotonin, such as antidepressants.
- Opioids: Very powerful painkillers that are usually only prescribed if you cannot take any of the above-mentioned medications.
These drugs carry a serious risk of addiction and are prescribed as least often as possible.
Drugs for Preventative Care
- Beta-blockers: Usually prescribed for high blood pressure, these drugs reduce the effects of stress hormones on your heart and blood vessels.
- Dizziness upon standing
These are just a few of the drugs that are used to treat migraines. There are actually 87 medications listed on WebMD. Interestingly, 26 of these are listed as being off-label when prescribed for migraines, meaning they are not approved for being used to care for migraines.
Due to some of the above-listed side effects and other concerns, many are turning to natural ways to care for migraines. Let’s look at one option that has amazing results.
Migraines and Upper Cervical Care
One underlying cause of migraines that often gets overlooked is a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine. The C1 and C2, the top bones of the neck, easily misalign due to their mobility in allowing the head to move in many directions. When this happens, the brainstem (located in the same area) is put under pressure and can restrict oxygen-rich blood flow and cerebrospinal fluid flow from reaching the brain. This can result in the onset of migraines.
Here at Precision Spine Specialists in Franklin, TN, we use a gentle method referred to as NUCCA to encourage the bones to move back into place. Most patients that have had this technique done report an improvement in severity and frequency of migraines in as little as one or two adjustments without any of the dangerous side effects of taking medications.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Hall or Dr. Chalke call our Franklin office at 615-778-0887 or just click the button below.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com