When treating a migraine, timing is everything
Migraines can be extremely disabling, especially if they aren’t treated in a timely manner. If you wait too long, the pain may become so strong that the medication won’t be able to relieve it or you may have nausea or vomiting that will prevent you from taking your medication.
When to take medication
Migraine attacks typically come on in the following way:
- Prodrome: It is the first part of a migraine attack and it can occur hours or even days before the headache begins. Sometimes, but not always, you may experience symptoms such as sugar cravings, extreme fatigue, irritability, uncontrollable yawning, and an increased need to urinate.
- Auras: At this stage, you may experience visual disturbances, numbness, or speech difficulties up to one hour before the attack (in about 20% of migraine sufferers)
- Migraine attack: That is when you will start feeling pain, often on only one side of the head. This is the time to take medication, before the pain becomes too intense.
- Intense pain phase: This phase is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting and intolerance to noise, light, or smells. If you wait until this phase before taking medication, it will likely be less effective, or the nausea or vomiting may prevent you from taking it.
- Resolution (or postdrome): You will feel gradual disappearance of pain and other symptoms but may be left feeling drained, exhausted, or “hung over.”
Keep a migraine diary
A migraine diary is a simple and effective way to gain a better understanding of how your migraine attacks evolve. Note the following details in your diary:
- When the migraine starts and how long it lasts
- Pain intensity
- Name, dose, and effectiveness of medication used
- Symptoms leading up to the attack
- Potential triggering factors
You can try to identify the factors that trigger your migraine attacks. This may not be easy as they can vary from one attack to another. Some typical triggers include lack of sleep, irregular meals, stress, menstruation, dehydration, certain foods, and alcoholic beverages.
Your pharmacist is there for you
If your current treatment is ineffective or is causing unwanted side effects, consult your pharmacist. They will assess your situation and propose solutions.
Ask your pharmacist for advice before taking medication for other types of pain, to ensure that it is compatible with your migraine medication.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.