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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