Anyone who has endured the excruciating pain of a severe headache or migraine episode is aware of how challenging it can be to perform mental tasks like working or driving while your head is pounding.
However, there are other things you can do when you have a headache besides merely lying in bed and hoping it goes away – although resting or getting some sleep may help. There are additional efficient headache treatments and methods to get relief quickly.
Painkillers on Prescription for Persistent Tension Headaches
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen or naproxen, can be prescribed at prescription strength for those who experience regular or recurrent tension headaches.
According to Dr. Rozental, the NSAID Indocin (indomethacin), which is only available by prescription, is “often used for arthritis, but can also be quite beneficial as a headache cure.” The drawback of indomethacin is that it is one of the medications most likely to result in gastrointestinal irritation, causing bleeding and ulcers. In addition, if used frequently or in excessive dosages, it can impair kidney function.
Related: Migraine Pain Symptoms: Causes, Prevention, Treatment
Quick-Relief Migraine Treatments
If migraine symptoms are treated as soon as possible, an attack that could normally linger for hours or days might be cut short.
Acute, or “abortive,” drugs are those that can help with symptoms after the onset of a migraine attack. These include over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen, triptans, a novel family of medicines, and CGRP receptor antagonists.
Not all migraine sufferers will respond to these medications. Before discovering the medication or combination of medications, as well as the doses, that are most effective for you, you may need to test a few.
Triptans Almotriptan (Axert), eletriptan (Relpax), frovatriptan (Frova), naratriptan (Amerge), rizatriptan (Maxalt), sumatriptan (Imitrex), and zolmitriptan are the seven triptan medications now offered in the United States (Zomig).
All triptans are accessible as pills; two, zolmitriptan and sumatriptan, are also available as nasal sprays; and sumatriptan is also available as an injectable.
While the longer-acting triptans, frovatriptan and naratriptan, take one to three hours to begin functioning, triptan injections begin to work in about 10 minutes, nasal sprays begin to work in 10 to 15 minutes, and the majority of pills begin to work in 30 to 60 minutes.
Antagonists of the CGRP receptor Two CGRP receptor antagonists, rimegepant (Nurtec ODT) and ubrogepant (Ubrelvy), are available for the acute treatment of migraine. They are sometimes referred to as “gepants.” Both of the oral painkillers start working within an hour. For those who cannot use triptans or who do not get relief from them, these medications may be an alternative.
Lasmiditan (Reyvow) (Reyvow) Lasmiditan can reduce migraine discomfort in as little as an hour and is also available as an oral pill. Lasmiditan may also be a substitute for those who cannot take triptans or who do not get relief from them because of the way it functions differently from triptans.
Dihydroergotamine (DHE) is frequently administered intravenously in emergency rooms to treat chronic migraines. According to the Mayo Clinic, it comes in nasal spray form (Migranal and Trudhesa) and as an injectable (D.H.E. 45) for use at home. It works best when given shortly after the onset of migraine symptoms for attacks that normally last more than 24 hours.
While both Trudhesa and Migranal contain the same medication, Trudhesa delivers it higher in the nasal cavity, where there are many blood arteries, so it should begin acting more quickly.
Ergotamine Cafergot, a pill, and Migergot, a rectal suppository, which combines ergotamine and caffeine, are less efficient than triptans for treating migraine pain, although they may be suitable for some people. According to MedlinePlus, they have a 30-minute time frame for pain relief.
Instruments for neurostimulation A neurostimulation or neuromodulation device, which sends electric or magnetic pulses to nerves that are directly or indirectly involved in pain processing, is a non-drug option for treating migraines. There are many devices available that target various nerves, and they can all be used to treat migraines acutely. All are most helpful when given as soon as symptoms first appear.