If you have migraine, and regularly deal with migraine attacks, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that 37 million people in the U.S. have migraine — a whopping 15 percent of the entire population, who get the head pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and other not fun things that it comes with. But… can a migraine nasal spray really give you a break from it all?
Because that’s too good to be true, right? A spray that can relieve, or even stop, your migraine attacks? What is this magic?
Turns out it’s just some really nifty science. So let’s take a look at migraine nasal sprays, and see if they can work their wizardry on you.
Do nasal sprays work as a migraine treatment?
Studies have shown that when testing out migraine nasal sprays, up to 61 percent of patients reported that their head pain was either reduced or gone completely within 2 hours. That’s not too shabby!
It’s not just mild migraine episodes either; they’ve successfully reduced symptoms even for people experiencing some pretty heavy-duty pain.
But do bear in mind that everyone’s unique — meaning results will ultimately vary from person to person. And nasal sprays are not recommended for people with heart probs.
Buckle up, because here comes the science!
Basically, nasal sprays are pretty rad because they get an express pass into your poor, beleaguered system. If you take a tablet, or some other form of oral medication, that poor sucker has to go through your digestive system and your liver first. It’s like being stuck in that passport control line at the airport — and nobody liked that.
Nasal sprays are where medications step off the plane, and are immediately in their resort hotel, sipping cocktails by the pool. That’s because your nasal cavity has a ton of blood vessels, and they deliver those meds to where it needs to go — fast.
In fact, an older study showed that nasal sprays can get to work in only 15 minutes. That really is magical!
Migraine meds usually come in two types: preventative (which is where you pop a pill every day, and it wards off migraine attacks before they develop), and abortive (which is where you take some meds when you’re already in the throes of a migraine attack).
90 percent of people go for the abortive route, and that’s the category that nasal sprays fall under. These also include three types of meds which are such superheroes, you’ll be waiting for Marvel to make a summer blockbuster movie about them:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
But who are these mysterious meds, and what will they do for you?
Step forward Superhero #1: Triptans! She’s a young, high class pain fighter who discovered her skills, and now fights to make the world a better place!
Doctors will prescribe triptans to you if NSAIDs (which we’ll chat about in a bit) just aren’t working for you. They’re sleek and effective, binding themselves to blood vessels and using the power of serotonin in order to make the vessels constrict, meaning less pain for you.
There’s a cost, though — literally. They tend to be much more expensive than NSAIDs, and they can make you feel pretty tight-chested and tired.
Superhero #2: Ergomatins! The wise, kindly mentor, who’ll slap pain upside the head!
Ergomatins aren’t used as much anymore, as they’ve done what all senseis should, and been surpassed by the student — Triptans. But as we said, not all meds work for everyone, and there’s a possibility that triptans just won’t do anything for you. So in that scenario, you may well be given ergomatins instead.
Unfortunately, they don’t work quite as well as triptans. And they can cause some people to feel a bit nauseous.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Superhero #3: NSAIDs! The steady, dependable leader of the gang, who takes down the pain as easily as his Lycra costume!
NSAIDs are the first port of call for most people — if your doc is prescribing you migraine meds, this is probably where they’ll start off. They have the most evidence for results, and they do a good job of blocking the chemicals which cause pain in your brain.
Keterolac is commonly used in nasal sprays and doesn’t even need high quantities to be effective. There are also fewer side effects from NSAIDs than from triptans or ergomatins, making them a great first choice.
So, migraine nasal sprays sound pretty great, right? But if you’ve never used one, what the heck do you do with it?
You simply insert it into your nostril and give it a good old spray! That’s enough to get the meds traveling up your snozz, and heading to where they need to be. But it’s important to remember to keep your head upright while you’re doing it.
If you start tilting your head backward instead, or just vigorously sniff it, you’re going to send the meds down your throat. And then it’s not going to work any better than an oral medication!
Yeah, we know how it is: you go to the pharmacy and get overwhelmed by the array of options. They all have weird names! Which is right for you, anyway? Why can’t life just be simple?
Here are the deets on some of the most commonly available, FDA-approved products:
- Imitrex. Remember we mentioned triptans, one of the most effective migraine meds? This is one of those! The nasal spray form of sumitriptan, it’s great for acute migraine, with or without aura.
- Tosymra. Also a spray form of sumitriptan, and also for treating acute migraine with or without aura.
- Zomig. Sounds like something your BFF would text to you, but is actually a zolmitripan spray. Just like its sumitriptan cousins, it’s good for those acute migraine, with or without aura.
- Migranal. Triptans not working for you? Try an ergomatin nasal spray instead. Guess what? It’s used to treat acute migraine, with or without aura!
- Sprix. This one’s been around for quite a while, and is a NSAID. That means it’s probably not quite as strong as the other choices, but it’ll still soothe moderate to severe pain.
You’re clued up on migraine nasal sprays now, but maybe you don’t want to use them all the time. So what are your other options?
It goes without saying that if you’re regularly experiencing migraine attacks, it’s worth having a chat with your doctor and getting their opinion on what’ll work best for you. If it’s more of an occasional thing, triggered by stress or lack of sleep, there are a few simple options you can try out.
Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin are recommended for treating migraine, but bear in mind that they won’t be anywhere near as effective as triptans or ergomatins. They’ll do a good job of soothing less severe migraine attacks, however.
If you’re one of the many people affected by migraine attacks, don’t despair! Relief might be a simple nasal spray away.
Although you may need to try a few different options before you find the one that works best for you, nasal sprays do a great job of relieving migraine — potentially reducing that pain within 15 minutes.
Triptans are generally the most common and most effective medication to try, but if they don’t work for you, ergomatins and NSAIDs will also do a fine job.