Placebo power can make a difference, even when it comes to treating migraine headaches. A fascinating study of 66 migraine headache sufferers tested the placebo hypothesis by having the volunteers record symptoms of an untreated migraine at the start of the trial. Then, as they developed migraines later in the study, the participants were given a pill (in an envelope, so neither the patient nor the researchers knew at that point what it was) and a message that indicated the pill was the powerful anti-migraine medicine rizatriptan (Maxalt) or a look-alike placebo. The message was not always correctly matched to the treatment.
Even when the subjects received a placebo pill and a message saying it was a placebo, however, they got some relief compared to their untreated migraine. Pain relief was twice as great when the message with a rizatriptan pill said it was the real deal. The investigators conclude that a positive message administered with medicine can contribute significantly to its effectiveness.
There is more information on medication for migraines as well as non-drug approaches that may prove helpful in our Guide to Headaches & Migraines.