Migraines are debilitating headaches, usually affecting one side of the head with throbbing or pulsating pain. Some people get a warning in the form of a “prodrome” of symptoms that may occur a few days before the headache itself strikes. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of migraine sufferers notice an aura shortly before the pain begins. This is a sensory disturbance; it could be sounds or smells, but usually it is visual. People may have bright flashes, zig-zags or other distortions in their vision. If a person prone to migraines can use migraine medicine during the short time that an aura is present, they may be able to prevent the pain. Here’s what one reader reports.
Taking Aspirin During an Aura Wards Off the Migraine:
Q. I’ve had migraines, maybe a couple of them a year, for many years. When I first see the aura, I’ve found that taking an aspirin within minutes of the beginning of the aura does the trick for me. It halts the migraine entirely. I don’t know if this would work for anyone else, but it’s been a lifesaver for me.
A. Medical guidelines suggest that aspirin or another NSAID is effective for mild to moderate migraine attacks (Acta Neurologica Taiwanica, June 15, 2017). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) in combination with an NSAID such as diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen can also stop an attack (Continuum, Aug. 2015).
Acetaminophen, Aspirin & Caffeine:
The makers of Excedrin Migraine have capitalized on the combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. A randomized controlled trial demonstrated that this combination is better than placebo for treating migraines (Cephalalgia, Nov. 2014). This combination is cost-effective, and the relief sets in more quickly than it does with ibuprofen (Headache, March 2006).
People who suffer migraines tell us that utilizing the treatment at the first hint of an aura increases the chance of success. Instead of medication, some people use cold ice cream, a milkshake or iced coffee. These too work best if taken when the aura is first apparent.
You can read more about averting migraine pain in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines. Our most recent radio interview on this topic was Show 1133: How Can You Overcome Migraine Headaches? with Dr. Jennifer Kriegler of the Cleveland Clinic.