Migraine Medications Explained

Written by Jessica Puterbaugh | December 22, 2022

A mix of medications is an important part of the migraine treatment toolbox. And while a wide variety of medications are available to help you manage your specific type of migraine and associated symptoms, navigating the many options can be difficult. Finding a medication or combination that works for you can be challenging and may require considerable time and patience. Educating yourself on the options available and partnering with your doctor can help you find a successful treatment.

Three Types of Migraine Medications

  1. Preventive /Prophylactic—used to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks, and are commonly prescribed to those who get 4+ migraine days per month or who are taking too many acute medications.
  2. Abortive/Acute—used to stop a migraine attack and its associated symptoms.
  3. Rescue—used when abortive medications fail or if you can’t take them due to lack of efficacy, side effects or contraindications.

You can learn more about each of these medication types and see a full list of the drugs that are available for each here.

Medication Forms

Migraine medications come in several forms. Depending on how fast the pain comes on, the level of severity, and which symptoms are experienced during an attack, some forms may work better at certain times than others. Below is a quick guide to understanding different medication forms and when their use may be most appropriate.


vary in size and must be swallowed, which can be difficult and/or may not work well for those experiencing nausea/vomiting. Many preventive and abortive medications come in this form. When used as an abortive, oral pills are best for migraine attacks that start slowly or have less severe symptoms, as they often take time to provide relief.


are fast-acting and can be taken conveniently and discreetly, with or without water. They can be great for those who struggle to swallow pillows. However, for those experiencing nausea or vomiting they can also be challenging and/or may not work well since they still are processed through the gut.


bypass the gut and get to work quickly, which is important for attacks with severe pain, and may be better tolerated as well as more effective for those experiencing nausea and/or vomiting.


are delivered via IV typically in a hospital or healthcare setting. The medication is delivered into the bloodstream and is generally fast-acting. There is a preventive infusion available, as well as others that are used to break longer-lasting attacks.


are easy-to-use self-injections that can be given in the comfort of the home. Preventive versions are typically used monthly or quarterly. Abortive injections are also available and are good fast-acting options for attacks with severe pain and/or vomiting and nausea.


are those given in a hospital or healthcare setting. They are generally used to treat to severe pain or break long-lasting migraine attacks. Some preventive injections like botox and other nerve blocks are also done in office by an experienced specialist.

You can read more about migraine medications in this blog post.

Let Us Know:

Do you have a variety of medication types your treatment toolbox? How has combining different types of medications helped you better manage life with migraine?


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