For people suffering from migraine headaches, over-the-counter ibuprofen - Advil and Motrin, well-known brands, might be enough to relieve the pain, suggests a review.
A new Cochrane review finds that about half of those with migraine headaches will have pain relief within two hours after taking ibuprofen.
Migraine headache is intense throbbing pain on one side of the head, and an attack can last anywhere between four and 72 hours. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, aura and increased sensitivity to light and sound often accompany migraines.
To relieve their headache pain, almost half (49 percent) of migraine sufferers use over-the-counter medication only, 20 percent use prescription medication and 29 percent use both, according to the Cochrane review.
Derry said she and her fellow reviewers conducted the Cochrane review to help provide a more definitive answer on whether ibuprofen is effective for migraine pain. They also wondered whether also taking an antiemetic to relieve nausea was better than taking an ibuprofen alone.
The reviewers evaluated nine studies with 4,373 adult participants who had a diagnosis of migraine headache. The average age of the participants was 30 to 40 years and all had a history of migraine for at least 12 months before entering the studies.
In total, 414 people with migraines underwent treatment with 200 milligrams of ibuprofen, 1,615 received a dose of 400 milligrams, 208 received a 600-milligram dose and 1,127 received a placebo.
Twenty-six percent of patients taking the 400-milligram dose were pain free within two hours, compared with 20 percent who took the smaller dose and 11 percent who received a placebo. In the same period, 57 percent who took 400 milligrams of ibuprofen had their pain reduced from moderate or severe to "no worse than mild," compared with 25 percent taking a placebo.
"For those who experience these outcomes, ibuprofen is a useful, inexpensive and readily available treatment," said review co-author Sheena Derry of the Pain Research and Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics at the University of Oxford.
The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research, published the systematic review.