When a migraine does occur, we don’t always have the ability to crawl to bed and stay in the dark until it passes. If you’re one of the 36 million Americans who suffer from migraines, it sure doesn’t hurt to keep a pain reliever with you at all times. While there are prescription medications for migraines, many people prefer over-the-counter remedies – and Belinda A. Savage-Edwards, MD, FAAN, AQH, certified neurologist and owner of Rehabilitation & Neurological Services in Alabama, has told POPSUGAR that they are a great tool to add to your migraine treatment plan.
What Should I Look For When Choosing A Migraine Medication?
First things first: Before you go to the store to buy a drug, Dr. Savage-Edwards recommends discussing it with your doctor. “Know the active ingredients and the possible interactions with other drugs or medical conditions, [such as] Peptic ulcers or gastric reflux, ”she warned. Your doctor will be able to advise you of any potential interactions.
When shopping for an over-the-counter migraine medication, Dr Savage-Edwards said you should always read the label and look for the active ingredients. In most migraine medications, these ingredients will be ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, aspirin, caffeine, or acetaminophen. “Specifically, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and aspirin belong to a group of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that reduce pain and inflammation caused by prostaglandins,” explained Dr. Savage- Edwards. “These are compounds found in the body made up of fat that have hormonal effects that create reactions that cause pain, fever, and inflammation.”
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NSAIDs reduce pain and inflammation by blocking the body’s production of prostaglandins. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever medication used to reduce pain and fever. “Therefore, both classes of drugs reduce pain, but ibuprofen also reduces inflammation,” said Dr. Savage-Edwards. For this reason, you may find that you get more relief when you take an NSAID.
Timothy Wong, MD, a board-certified family physician, stressed 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 because you can easily take too much,” Dr Wong explained. He added that acetaminophen, more commonly 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 stressed the importance of not using over-the-counter pain relievers too often. “They can cause headaches from overuse of drugs,” she told POPSUGAR. Talk to your doctor about how often you should take an over-the-counter medicine. If you find that you need to use them frequently, it may be time to try a different prescription medication or treatment plan.