Beta Blockers For Migraine: Mechanism And Side Effects


While migraine symptoms can be unbearable, many people use beta blockers to prevent migraine. This article explores the use of beta blockers for migraine prevention, their mechanism of action, potential side effects, and alternative treatment options.

What Are Beta-Blockers?

Beta blockers are migraine medications that block the action of stress hormones, like adrenaline (epinephrine). Beta blockers prevent migraine by binding to beta receptors in the body, which leads to a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. While primarily prescribed for cardiovascular conditions, beta blockers are effective in preventing migraine symptoms. Beta blockers are originally used to treat anxiety. This is interesting as anxiety and migraine are often comorbidities.

According to The Headache Foundation, beta blockers were initially used to treat cardiovascular disease in the late 1960s. However, patients undergoing cardiovascular therapy coincidentally experienced lesser migraine attacks. Subsequent research during the 1970s led to the approval of propranolol as the first medication in this category sanctioned by the FDA for preventing migraines. Timolol was later also approved by the FDA for the same purpose.

List Of Beta Blockers For Migraine

According to WebMD, the two types of beta blockers for migraine include:

  • Propranolol
  • Timolol

Mechanism Of Action: How Do Beta-Blockers Help Prevent Migraines?

Research suggests that beta blockers prevent migraine by reducing blood pressure and inhibiting the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Beta blockers also help with migraine by reducing blood vessel dilation. Another mechanism of action of beta blockers for migraine also involves calming the nervous system.

Side Effects of Beta Blockers for Migraines

Common side effects of beta blockers for migraine include:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • cold hands and feet
  • vivid dreams
  • sexual dysfunction
  • depression
  • worsening of asthma symptoms

Alternatives to Beta-Blockers for Migraines

Alternatives to beta blockers include:

These alternatives target different pathways involved in migraine development and may be considered based on individual circumstances. Alternative treatments are available for those who cannot tolerate or do not respond to these medications.

Calcium Channel Blockers VS Beta Blockers

The difference between calcium channel blockers vs beta blockers is that calcium channel blockers block the flow of calcium throughout the channels while beta blockers block the beta receptors from being activated

Some similarities between beta blockers vs calcium-channel blockers is that both are used to prevent angina attack (chest pain) or angina symptoms.. However, if you have vasospastic angina (spasm of a coronary artery), you should avoid beta blockers and opt for calcium channel blockers instead.

The good news is that you can record your medication intake with Migraine Buddy to understand the efficacy. You can download Migraine Buddy on iOS and Android!

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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