White woman curled up in bed in pain, covering her head with a pillow.

7 Fast-Acting Medications and Treatments for Severe Migraines and Cluster Headaches

Severe or acute migraines and cluster headaches can hit in minutes and cause excruciating pain. 

While there are many management, prevention, and treatment options, sometimes relief can’t wait. 

Let’s look at seven fast-acting prescription medications and treatments.

1. Sumatriptan

Prescription triptan drugs can get rid of your acute migraines and cluster headaches in minutes. 

Sumatriptan, the fastest-working drug on this list, works fastest in injectable form. Typically, a medical professional administers the first injection. 

Whereas injectable and nasal Sumatriptan can start providing relief in 15 minutes, oral Sumatriptan takes 30-60 minutes. The nasal spray is for migraines and cluster headaches, and the pills are only for migraines. 

2. Oxygen (for Cluster Headaches Only)

Strapping a mask over your face and taking in pure oxygen can start relieving severe headache symptoms from cluster headaches within 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, oxygen can be very inconvenient as a severe headache relief option because you either have to take it at a medical facility or carry a portable tank with you.

3. Zolmitriptan 

Another prescription triptan drug, Zolmitriptan, is a fast-acting nasal spray alternative to injections that treat migraines and cluster headache attacks.

Zolmitriptan can be taken as an oral tablet to dissolve in the mouth, an oral pill to swallow, and a nasal spray.  

The nasal spray works faster, providing noticeable relief as soon as 10 minutes (typically taking an hour to bring significant relief).

The oral forms typically take two hours to noticeably relieve pain (probably not fast enough, especially for a cluster headache).

4. Octreotide (for Cluster Headaches Only)

Octreotide or Sandostatin is a synthetic form of the brain hormone somatostatin. It’s an effective medication for cluster headaches but not for migraines.

It can provide relief within 30 minutes, though it’s generally not as fast-acting or effective as Triptans. 

5. Nerve Blocker 

A nerve blocker like lidocaine is a quick treatment for migraines and cluster headaches — but you can’t take it with you. Some people experience improvements in their symptoms within 15 minutes.

It’s a procedure administered by a medical professional at a medical facility that involves receiving an anesthetic injection into the back of the skull.

Nerve-blocking injections can provide pain relief from migraines and cluster headaches for months. 

6. Local Nasal Anesthetic (for Cluster Headaches Only)

A prescription local nasal anesthetic, such as lidocaine, can provide a numbing effect for cluster headache pain within minutes.

Like nerve blockers and oxygen, this treatment is only available for administration in a medical facility. Also, this isn’t a long-term option, as pain relief from a local nasal anesthetic wears off within hours. 

7. Dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45)

Dihydroergotamine is a medication that may provide fast-acting pain relief for migraines and cluster headaches.

It’s available in injectable, intravenous (IV), and nasal spray forms. 

Though generally not as effective a treatment as triptans, Dihydroergotamine is associated with a low risk of migraines returning within 24 hours. 

Expert Treatment for Headache Disorders At Texas Pain Physicians

Do you suffer from severe migraine or cluster headaches, or think you might?

Our board-certified pain management doctors can find what’s causing you pain and ensure you have safe, fast-acting medication.

Give us a call at (972) 636-5727 or book an appointment today.