Can beta-blockers reduce migraines?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Guidelines for migraine prevention published by the American Headache Society list the following beta blockers as effective, probably effective, and possibly effective. 

  • Effective: metoprolol, propranolol, timolol 
  • Probably effective: atenolol, nadolol 
  • Possibly effective: nebivolol, pindolol 

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition, or find a doctor. 

You may think of beta-blockers as medicine for cholesterol or heart conditions, but they also have found a place in the treatment of migraines. Calcium-channel blockers and blood pressure medication also are effective medication for migraines, although doctors are unsure why they seem to help. It is possible that they help people have fewer and less painful headaches because they lessen pressure on blood vessels. These medications may be especially helpful if you have migraines, but also suffer from heart problems and cannot take drugs that raise serotonin levels.

Anti-seizure medications are another treatment possibility, although they are usually saved for treatment until some others are ruled out. These work by blocking the neurotransmitters that start migraine attacks.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.