Acute and preventive treatment of migraine

Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2012 Aug;18(4):764-82. doi: 10.1212/01.CON.0000418641.45522.3b.


Purpose of review: Migraine remains underdiagnosed and undertreated despite advances in the understanding of its pathophysiology and management. This article focuses on acute and preventive treatment of migraine, including the mechanisms of action, dosing and side effects of medications, and strategies for the most effective care.

Recent findings: Best practice suggests that acute migraine treatment should be stratified based on the severity of the individual event, with a goal of returning the patient to full function within 2 hours of treatment. Migraine prevention strategies continue to be underused in the United States. More than 1 in 4 patients with migraines may be candidates for preventive therapy. To obtain the best results from preventive therapy, slow titration to an adequate dose for an adequate timeframe with good documentation of the results is recommended.

Summary: This article reviews several options for managing acute attacks, including information on expected efficacy, dosing, and adverse effects. Strategies for effective application of acute therapies are discussed. Prevention can be added to acute therapy depending on headache characteristics such as frequency, severity, disability, and the presence of comorbid conditions. The mechanisms of action of preventive medications and strategies for their most effective use are discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Migraine Disorders / history
  • Migraine Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Tryptamines / therapeutic use


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Tryptamines