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How do I Use Propranolol for a Migraine?

By Page Coleman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Propranolol is a prescription medication that works as a beta blocker. When using propranolol for a migraine, it is used as a preventative medicine, and so should taken before the migraine headache has begun. Though propranolol is considered relatively safe, some people may experience side effects. Lifestyle changes may reduce the need for propranolol to prevent migraines. Propranolol is also used to treat other conditions.

Medical professionals generally suggested to take propranolol with a large glass of water at the same time each day. It acts to prevent a migraine, and it may be ineffective after the headache has begun. Accordingly, a doctor may suggest taking propranolol for a migraine before a known triggering event. For example, if a woman has migraines triggered by hormonal fluctuations, her doctor may suggest taking propranolol before and during menstruation.

Migraine headaches seem to be caused by the dilation of blood vessels, and the brain chemical known as serotonin also may play a factor. These headaches can be severe and debilitating. They may be proceeded by visual disturbances known as auras, or by anxiety, hunger, or a tired feeling.

Some patients may experience side effects from this migraine treatment, such as intestinal distress, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea. Memory loss, depression, low blood pressure, and slow heart rate might also be experienced. Other side effects are breathing difficulties, and propranolol can worsen symptoms for people suffering from emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. In other cases, shock and heart failure may result. A patient who takes propranolol for a migraine preventative or other conditions should consult with his or her physician before discontinuing use.

Lifestyle changes may lower the frequency of migraines and also offer migraine relief. Migraines tend to be triggered by a number of factors, and reducing the incidence of known triggers can reduce the frequency of the headaches. Common triggers include changes in hormone levels, stress, certain foods such as aged cheese and meats, and the food flavor enhancer MSG. Other lifestyles changes that may reduce the frequency of migraines are getting sufficient sleep and drinking plenty of water. Migraine sufferers may wish to review their caffeine intake, because excessive use or cutting back may trigger migraines.

Along with using propranolol for a migraine, propranolol is often used in the treatment of hypertension. It can also be prescribed for use by musicians or other performers who may suffer from stage fright. In some cases, surgeons may use propranolol to reduce hand tremors when performing surgery.

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Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On Jul 26, 2013

@turkay1-- I'm not a doctor but as far as I know, beta blockers not only prevent blood pressure from rising too much, but they also usually prevent it from falling too much. Plus, the doses used for migraines are not high enough to cause a dangerous fall in blood pressure. If you are naturally prone to low blood pressure though, you might want to keep an eye on it when you start propranolol.

Propranolol hasn't reduced my blood pressure much. The only major side effect I have from it is fatigue but I think it's getting better over time. I also take the medication before I go to bed, I feel like it works better that way. It's a great migraine medication though. I don't get migraines as long as I don't skip a dose.

By bear78 — On Jul 25, 2013

@turkay1-- Propranolol is prescribed in lower doses for migraines. I'm only taking 10mg a day. But my doctor said that if my migraine symptoms don't reduce on a low dose, we would increase the dose. Apparently there are people who take up to 60-80mg/a day for migraines.

So it depends on what dose works for you and also the side effects. Usually the side effects increase with higher doses.

By candyquilt — On Jul 24, 2013

What dosages are usually given when propranolol is prescribed as a migraine headache treatment?

Doesn't propranolol reduce blood pressure too much when it's used for migraines?

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