While the precise cause is not known, many potential triggers have been identified. Common triggers include:
Environmental triggers, such as odors and bright lights
Dietary triggers, such as alcohol
Changes in sleep patterns
Physiologic changes, such as menstruation and puberty
A trigger sets the process in motion. It is possible that the nervous system reacts to the trigger by conducting electrical activity. This spreads across the brain. It leads to the release of brain chemicals, which help regulate pain.
are often needed to ease or stop the pain. Over-the-counter pain pills may ease mild symptoms.
Some pain relievers have caffeine as an ingredient, since it may help improve pain relief. If yours does not, talk to your doctor about taking a caffeine supplement with your pain reliever.
Regular use of some over-the-counter medications may cause a rebound headache.
Some prescription medications act directly to stop the cause of the migraine headache. These include drugs that:
Quiet nerve pathways
Bind receptors for serotonin, a brain chemical
These drugs can be taken by mouth. They may act more quickly in forms that dissolve in the mouth, are inhaled through the nose, or injected. They are more likely to be helpful if taken as soon as possible at the start of a migraine. Your doctor can help you choose the medication best for you.
Medications that can help stop a migraine once it has begun include:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
Medications for nausea
Combination medication that contains caffeine
Other drugs can help prevent migraines for people with frequent migraines. Preventive drugs are taken every day. Classes of preventive medications include:
Calcium channel blockers
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin-II receptor blockers (ARBs)
Therapy may also be used to reduce the length and frequency of migraine headaches. It may be used with or without medication and may include cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, or relaxation methods.
Botulinum toxin injections
may be used as a way to prevent migraines and to reduce the duration and intensity of the headaches in people who have headaches often.
In some people, migraines are triggered when a nerve in the head is stimulated. With this type of surgery, the nerve trigger point is located in the head and is deactivated. This surgery may reduce the number of migraines or completely eliminate them in sufferers who do not respond to conventional treatments. Most migraines are not treated with surgery.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation surgery may also be used in patients with migraine with aura who have not responded to other treatments.
NINDS migraine information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
Accessed February 15, 2018.
Recognizing stroke. National Stroke Association website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed February 15, 2018.
10/25/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114718/Migraine-in-adults: US Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Botox to treat chronic migraine. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Published October 15, 2010. Accessed January 15, 2015.
1/2/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Huquet A, McGrath PJ, et al. Efficacy of psychological treatment for headaches: an overview of systematic reviews and analysis of potential modifiers of treatment efficacy. Clin J Pain. 2014;30(4):353-369.