Verapamil isn’t a primary option for migraine treatment or prevention. There are more effective treatment and prevention options available, and it’s unlikely that a doctor will prescribe this medication for migraine.
Keep reading to learn more about verapamil and why it was once used for migraine.
They work by relaxing blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely to the heart. This helps lower blood pressure.
In the past, verapamil was also prescribed to treat cluster headaches and prevent migraine. However, it’s not Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for these conditions, so it was considered an off-label treatment for them.
“Off-label” means that a medication is used for another reason or dose than it was approved. This is a common practice.
Migraine preventive medications are different from rescue treatment medications. Preventive migraine
Doctors previously thought increased pressure in blood vessels might cause migraine attacks, and this is one reason verapamil was prescribed.
There’s weak evidence for verapamil’s effectiveness for migraine prevention. That’s why it’s not the first option doctors choose.
Verapamil is used to treat cluster headaches. A 2019 review
Verapamil is available in several dosage forms and strengths in brand and generic. Brand names include Calan, Calan SR, Verelan, and Verelan PM.
It comes in immediate release, extended release, and delayed release in capsule and tablet forms.
The dosage of verapamil depends on:
- the reason for its use
- other health conditions you may have
- other medications you take
- your age
Your doctor will start you on the lowest dose to provide maximum benefits with the least risks.
You can take the extended release type of verapamil with or without food. Don’t split, crush, or chew the extended release capsules. You can cut the extended release tablets, but don’t crush or chew them.
For use in migraine prevention, doses can vary. Doses may range from
It may take several weeks for it to work, so be patient with your treatment plan. Ask your doctor how long it may take for verapamil to start working.
Verapamil has some side effects. For most people, these are mild and go away with regular use.
But some people can experience serious side effects with verapamil. If you experience a serious or life threatening reaction to verapamil, call 911 or get to an emergency medical center immediately.
This is not a complete list of all the possible side effects and interactions of verapamil. Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about all the side effects and interactions of verapamil.
Common side effects
People may experience more common side effects of verapamil, including:
- low blood pressure
Serious side effects
Some people may experience serious side effects when taking verapamil. These side effects include:
- difficulty breathing
- dizziness or light headedness
- changes in heart rhythm, palpitations, or chest pain
- skin rash
- swelling of your legs or ankles
Verapamil may interact with other drugs you take. These interactions may include:
- cholesterol medications (simvastatin)
- arrhythmia medications (quinidine)
- other blood pressure-lowering medications (beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors)
- migraine medication (eletriptan)
Verapamil can also interact with foods, vitamins, and other over-the-counter products. Tell your doctor about all your medications and over-the-counter products you take.
Do not take verapamil with grapefruit juice. It can slow the removal of verapamil from your body causing the drug to build up. This can increase your risk of serious side effects.
Yes, you can overdose on verapamil. Taking too much verapamil can cause serious, even life threatening reactions.
Serious symptoms from overdose include:
- very low blood pressure
- problems with heart rhythm
- kidney problems
- slow heart rate
Take the exact dose of verapamil your doctor prescribes. Don’t increase your verapamil dose on your own.
Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 if you think you’ve taken too much verapamil. For a life threatening medical emergency, call 911 or go to an emergency medical center immediately.
Today there are plenty of choices to both prevent migraine from happening and treat acute symptoms.
Verapamil doesn’t show strong evidence of effectiveness for migraine prevention. A review of
The American Family Physician recommends other medications as first choice options for migraine prevention with good evidence of effectiveness.
Verapamil doesn’t have strong evidence of effectiveness for use in migraine prevention. There are other medications that are better, so it’s not generally the first option considered.
Your doctor may discuss verapamil if other treatments haven’t worked or if you also have high blood pressure with migraine.
Learn about what triggers your migraine attacks (environmental, dietary, behavioral) and develop steps to avoid them.
Examples of migraine triggers include:
- sleep problems
- certain foods
- hormonal changes
- weather changes
Ask your doctor about other medications and lifestyle support options for migraine like cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, biofeedback, relaxation training, and acupressure that might help with your symptoms.