National Migraine Centre

Having to ration painkillers to avoid over-use headaches is a nightmare. What can I do?

A year ago, I got into a vicious cycle of daily headaches, daily acute painkillers, and then medication over-use headaches. Stopping the daily painkillers definitely helped, but the 6 weeks with no painkillers was a real challenge.

I've failed to find a prophylactic that helps consistently so still rely on some acute painkillers when the headaches or migraines are at their worst. But I've been told not to do this more than 10 times a month, to avoid tipping back into over-use headaches.

This is fine advice, but people giving it have no idea how desperately awful it is to have a headache and NOT BE ALLOWED to take any painkillers/relief for it! I know it is better for the long term, but can anyone suggest any coping strategies, or remedies that do not cause over-use headaches?

3 Replies

I tend to restrict triptans, which are the only thing that works for me, to 2-3 times a month. This required me to seriously accept my limitations, for example drop a day at work and explain to friends that I was going to be very unreliable for a time.

I managed to find some prophylaxis with the national migraine centre that took the edge off so that I could tough it out to some extent and learnt mindfulness meditation (

I would also highly recommend going on a pain management course if you can find one.


I did the same thing & came off most of my medication. The preventers didn't prevent anyway and just gave me awful side-effects. I take Sumatriptan about 3 times a month for the bad ones & manage with aspirin or nothing the rest of the time. I've been taking certain supplements for 5 months which have hugely decreased the number of migraines I get (300mg CoEnzyme Q10, 400mg Vitamin B2 and 600mg Magnesium every day), plus I take Soya Isoflavones (natural oestrogen booster). Other measures to help include sleeping elevated (3 pillows in a triangle so I sleep almost sitting up - not comfortable!), removing all sweeteners from my diet (aspartame is a headache trigger and as I do Slimming World I was having quite a bit at one stage), no alcohol (sob!) and trying to get good amounts of sleep and water. I don't think there's one thing that makes a huge difference, it's a combination of all these things, but I haven't had a throwing up all day migraine for months and I used to get at least one a week! Good luck. x


Hi Emma, I know exactly how you feel! Have you been to see one of the Doctors at the National Migraine Centre talk in more detail about this? I now take Naproxen occasionally instead of OTC painkillers - but I'm also on topamax, and have nerve blocks etc etc...but I also found physio and TENS unit really helpful too!


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