When a migraine occurs, we don’t always have the option to crawl into bed and stay in the dark until it passes. If you’re one of the 36 million Americans who get migraines, it certainly can’t hurt to have a pain reliever with you at all times. While prescription drugs are available for migraines, many people prefer over-the-counter medications – and Belinda A. Savage-Edwards, MD, FAAN, AQH, a certified neurologist and owner of Rehabilitation & Neurological Services in Alabama, told POPSUGAR they are a great one Tool to complement your migraine treatment plan.
What should I look for when choosing a migraine medication?
First things first, before you go to the store to pick up a drug, Dr. Savage-Edwards to discuss this with your doctor. “Be familiar with the active ingredients and possible interactions with other drugs or diseases, [such as] Stomach ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease, ”she warned. Your doctor will be able to inform you about possible interactions.
Dr. Savage-Edwards said that when buying any over-the-counter migraine medication, you should always read the label and look for the active ingredients. In most migraine medications, these ingredients are ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, aspirin, caffeine, or paracetamol. “Specifically, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and aspirin are among a group of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that reduce pain and inflammation caused by prostaglandins,” said Dr. Savage-Edwards. “These are compounds found in the body from fats that have hormone-like effects that cause reactions that cause pain, fever and inflammation.”
NSAIDs reduce pain and inflammation by blocking the body’s production of prostaglandins. Acetaminophen is an analgesic used to reduce pain and fever. “Therefore, both drug classes reduce pain, but ibuprofen also reduces inflammation,” said Dr. Savage-Edwards. Because of this, you may find that you will experience more relief from taking an NSAID.
Timothy Wong, MD, General Practitioner, emphasized the importance of not mixing certain active ingredients. Ibuprofen (known as Advil and Motrin) is an NSAID in the same class of drugs as naproxen (Aleve). “You shouldn’t mix NSAIDs as you can easily take too much,” said Dr. Wong. He added that acetaminophen, better known as Tylenol, belongs to a different class of drugs and is safe to take with ibuprofen or naproxen. In fact, some over-the-counter pain relievers, like Excedrin Migraine, combine acetaminophen with an NSAID.
Finally, Dr. Savage-Edwards on the importance of not using over-the-counter pain relievers too often. “You can cause headaches from drug overuse,” she told POPSUGAR. Talk to your doctor about how often you should take an over-the-counter medicine. If you find you need to use them frequently, it may be time to try a prescription drug or other treatment plan.