Trying Ritalin for Migraine Prevention… and Loving It

Wait-and-see-if-it-goes-away is my method of dealing with house problems. Not because I want to see if a minor issue will develop into a major problem, but calling someone and meeting with a service person is an exhausting proposition when you have a migraine all the time. So yesterday when Hart told me the shower was backing up, he was astonished when I immediately asked if I needed to call a plumber. That’s just not how we do things around here.

Until now. Now my mind is clear(er), I have more energy, and my migraine pain is improving. Today is my fifth day on Ritalin (methylphenidate). My headache specialist suggested it after a number of patients reported a decrease in their headaches and migraine attacks after starting it for ADD or ADHD. Though I’m taking it primarily as a migraine preventive, the fact that it is a stimulant definitely adds to its appeal — the fatigue has been more debilitating than the migraine pain since I started cyproheptadine. The reprieve from my mental fog was entirely unexpected, but so, so welcome. Carrying on an intelligent conversation and following complex tasks without trouble is blissful.

Oddly, the frequency of the migraine attacks is still the same — of the five days I’ve been on Ritalin, I’ve had migraine attacks on four of them, including today. A couple times I wasn’t even sure I had a migraine. The pain was only at a level 3, but I was having trouble staying awake, which indicates a migraine attack for me. I was able to “sleep off” the worst of those attacks with hour-long naps. The overall throbbing pain I’m so accustomed to has diminished, so the pain is mostly localized and stabbing, but mild.

This is a strange and exciting new world and I’m loving it!

11 Responses to Trying Ritalin for Migraine Prevention… and Loving It

  1. Nilofer says:

    Glad to hear that you are doing better. All the best to you.

  2. macattack says:

    Congrats on new, potentially effective, find!! Does it cause side effects like trouble sleeping?

  3. Heather says:

    I’m so happy to hear you’re finally having some relief! Who would have thought Ritalin would help migraine pain? I’m adding that to my list of things to try! hope it continues to help and maybe even starts reducing the frequency! :)

  4. Kate says:

    Great! I’m also on this med, but for excessive sleepiness, especially in the morning. I usually take 20mg in the morning and that is it, but sometimes I need more (like when I had a class for work for an entire week). When I take larger amounts more often I actually found I had more headache pain…but possibly coincidence. I think anything that helps in any way is great.

    This has been a good med for me too. Dry mouth has been an issue, but I think its more of a combo of taking multiple meds causing it, not one in particular. Plus, my insurance only covers it for ADD (but the cash price isn’t bad at all). I had heard at least once in the past that it helped someone with headache pain. There have been weirder things. Best wishes.

  5. Sammi says:

    So happy for you! I’ve never heard of Ritalin for this use before, but now I’m kind of eager to try it, should my headaches / migraines get that bad again. I would happily do away with all the brain fog issues I have.

    But anyway, best of luck, and I hope this keeps working for you!

  6. Lisa says:

    This is quite the effects I feel from my preventives that work. Frequency is still high but often the pain is a 3 or 4 and I can sleep thought the worst (if I’m home). It’s really the difference between debilitating and functional, and makes all the difference. It takes away the anxiety surrounding migraines for me too. I really hope it continues to help you. Sending you love!

  7. Pam says:

    Curious to know how you are doing now? It looks like it’s been about a month out now. I was just reading how some people have found relief with ritalin and found this page. I hope you are still feeling better.

  8. Kim says:

    I had no idea that ritalin can be used as a migraine preventative. I had myself tested for ADHD about seven years ago, & was officially diagnosed with it (inattentive type, no hyperactivity). I did try Adderall at a very small dose, but had to stop because it just made my migraines worse. I haven’t been on anything for it since. Now I’m wondering if ritalin could help me in more ways than one. I will ask about it at my next appointment. Thanks for your post!

    Unfortunately, some people do have an increase in headaches or migraine attacks on stimulants. Not sure if Ritalin would be different than Adderall, but it is certainly worth asking your doctor about.

    Best of luck!

  9. Lauri Jaafari says:

    I just read this webpage. I started taking Concerta on and off about a month ago to help with focus and possibly migraine help. That’s Methylphenidate– the same as Ritalin.
    not sure if headaches are caused or helped by it that’s why I’m been on and of and now on again.
    How are you doing these days? What else do you use for chronic headaches/migraines?

    • Hi Lauri,

      I only took the methylphenidate for about six months. After the initial surge of energy, it didn’t help the migraines and no longer increased my energy. I know someone who started Concerta for ADHD and it worsened their migraines considerably. It took a few months to notice the full effect, but they were up from one or two migraines a month to four a week. They’ve since switched to a lower dose of Concerta and take it twice in a day. It appears that this is helping level off the dose so there’s no major dip in the wee hours of the night.

      Take care,

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