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How effective are NSAIDs at treating migraines?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

NSAIDs reduce moderate to severe migraine pain to mild pain within 2 hours for about 50% of people, and to no pain within for about 25%. These drugs tend to be more effective if they are taken early in the course of a migraine.

Guidelines for treating migraine attacks published by the American Headache Society list the following NSAIDs as effective, probably effective, and possibly effective. 

  • Effective: aspirin, aspirin/acetaminophen/caffeine, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, naproxen/sumatriptan
  • Probably effective: flurbiprofen, ketoprofen, ketorolac
  • Possibly effective: phenazone

Migraines related to a woman's menstrual period can sometimes be prevented or minimized by taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as indomethacin. A woman usually starts taking the medication about 3 days before her period is expected to begin. 

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. 

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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.