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Migraines & headaches health centre

Naproxen

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for adults who get migraines. It tells you about naproxen, a treatment used for migraines. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

If you take naproxen, your migraine attack is likely to get better.

What is it?

Naproxen is a type of painkiller called a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It's similar to ibuprofen. It is sometimes called naproxen sodium.

You can get naproxen on prescription from your doctor. The brand names are Naprosyn and Arthroxen, and there are also unbranded versions.

You can buy products containing naproxen over the counter, but they're sold to treat period pains, not migraines.

How can it help?

Naproxen can make your migraine attack less severe. [71] [72] [73] If you take it you are less likely to need another treatment for migraine. [72]

Some studies have found it works better than a treatment called ergotamine. [74] [75]

How does it work?

Like other NSAIDs, naproxen works by stopping your body making chemicals called prostaglandins. Your body makes these chemicals when you are in pain or injured. Prostaglandins cause inflammation and make you more sensitive to pain. By stopping the prostaglandins, naproxen helps you feel better.

Can it be harmful?

The drawback of naproxen and other NSAIDs is that they can irritate the lining of your stomach. This may cause stomach ulcers or bleeding in your stomach. It's usually best not to take NSAIDs if you have a stomach ulcer or if you've had one in the past.

A study that included only a small number of people showed that 1 in 6 people taking naproxen had side effects. Stomach pain and indigestion (dyspepsia) were the most common problems. [71]

In another study comparing naproxen with an ergotamine drug, about 1 in 3 people on naproxen stopped taking it, presumably because of the side effects. [75]

Other less common side effects include vomiting (about 1 in 10 people got this), diarrhoea, dizziness, nausea, shivering, and sweating. In one study, about 2 in 100 people stopped taking the drug because of these side effects. [73]

NSAIDs can also make asthma worse. [32]

Guidelines for doctors say that if you need to take an NSAID, you should:

  • Start on the lowest recommended dose

  • Not use more than one NSAID at a time

  • Not use NSAIDs at all if you have or have had an ulcer.

Taking high doses of NSAIDs every day for a long time may increase your risk of a heart attack or a stroke. This is unlikely to be a problem with the doses you take for a migraine. But if you'd like to read more, see Warnings about side effects of NSAIDs.

Last Updated: September 26, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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