Healthy living

Aspirin good for migraine

Zone default image Eases pain in over 50% of people

Aspirin can "substantially reduce migraine headache pain" within two hours, for more than half of people who take it, new research has found.

It also reduces other symptoms of migraine such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound.

Around one in ten people in the UK suffer from migraine. Although symptoms can vary, migraine sufferers experience severe headaches, typically once or twice a month which can last between four and 72 hours.

Many migraine sufferers use over the counter (OTC) medicines to try to ease the pain, or take them along with drugs available on prescription. However, there is little evidence to show how effective these OTC medicines are at relieving migraine symptoms.

In order to find this out, researchers from the Cochrane Library analysed the results of 13 previous studies involving 4,222 people. They found that severe or moderate migraine pain could be halted in one in four people using a single dose of 900-1000mg of aspirin, within two hours of taking the drug.

And 52 per cent had their headache pain reduced to no worse than "mild pain."

Whilst taking aspirin alone reduced some of the other migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and light and sound sensitivity, aspirin plus metroclopramide - a drug to stop you feeling sick - was the best combination for reducing nausea and vomiting.

When used in combination, the drugs did not give any greater pain relief.

Side effects associated with taking the drugs were mostly mild and short-lived, said the researchers, and were more common when taking aspirin than when taking a placebo, and when taking sumatriptan than when taking aspirin plus metoclopramide.

However, the researchers said the treatment would not be benefit all migraine sufferers.

"Aspirin plus metoclopramide will be a reasonable therapy for acute migraine attacks, but for many it will be insufficiently effective," said study leader Andrew Moore, who works in Pain Relief and the Department of Anaesthetics at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

"We are presently working on reviews of other OTC medicines for migraines, to provide consumers with the best available evidence on treatments that don't need a prescription."

This article was published on Wed 14 April 2010

Image © fred goldstein -

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