Beta-blockers for migraine headaches


Generic Name Brand Name
atenolol Tenormin
metoprolol Lopressor, Toprol
nadolol Corgard
propranolol Inderal

How It Works

Beta-blockers relax blood vessels. It is not clear how they work to prevent migraines.

Why It Is Used

Beta-blockers are preventive medications that are used to prevent migraine headaches in some people who get them regularly.

How Well It Works

These medicines can reduce the number of migraines you get each month by more than half. This happened in about 50 out of 100 people who took one of these medicines to prevent migraines.1

Side Effects

Side effects of beta-blockers include:

  • Sleep problems and vivid dreams.
  • Memory problems.
  • Fatigue.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Beta-blockers may require close monitoring if you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, or high cholesterol. Some beta-blockers may make symptoms of lung disease and asthma worse and may affect cholesterol levels as well as how the body responds to low blood sugar.

These medications are also used to treat high blood pressure.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Drugs for migraine (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(67): 17–22.

Last Updated: June 30, 2009

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