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Numbing Migraine Pain: Exploring Lidocaine Nasal Spray as a Potential Solution

What is Lidocaine Nasal Spray and How Does It Work?

Lidocaine nasal spray is a medication that contains the active ingredient lidocaine, which belongs to a class of drugs known as local anesthetics. It is used for its numbing or anesthetic properties and is administered via nasal spray for specific medical purposes. In the form of a nasal spray, lidocaine is intended for application through the nostrils. It is absorbed through the nasal mucosa (lining of the nasal passages) and can provide localized numbing effects in the nasal area. (1,2)

Lidocaine nasal spray is commonly used in medical settings prior to certain nasal procedures, such as endoscopies or minor surgical interventions involving the nasal passages. In some cases, lidocaine nasal spray may be prescribed to alleviate acute migraine or cluster headache pain, though it is not a first-line treatment for these conditions.

Lidocaine’s numbing effects are temporary and typically wear off within a relatively short period of time.

Lidocaine nasal spray operates by desensitizing a cluster of nerve cells known as the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) located in the brain. These cells have been linked to headache-related discomfort and are intertwined with the trigeminal nerve, a key player in headache pain. (3)

Positioned just behind the nasal passage, SPG cells are believed to influence symptoms like teary eyes and nasal congestion often experienced during migraine and cluster headache episodes. Lidocaine nasal spray swiftly permeates both the bloodstream and the brain, potentially inducing a temporary numbing effect on these cells.

Lidocaine nasal spray is available by prescription only and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider who will determine the appropriate dosage and administration.

Effectiveness of Lidocaine Spray in Alleviating Migraine Symptoms

Lidocaine nasal spray has shown promise as a potential treatment for migraines, particularly in some cases. As mentioned earlier, it works by temporarily numbing nerve cells associated with headache pain, known as the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), which are located behind the nose. These cells have been linked to symptoms like tearing and nasal congestion, common during migraine attacks. (4)

While lidocaine spray has demonstrated effectiveness in providing relief for certain individuals, its efficacy can vary widely among patients. Some may experience significant improvement in migraine symptoms, while others may find it less effective. Additionally, the duration of relief provided by lidocaine spray tends to be temporary.

However, findings from clinical trials have been inconclusive, and as of now, there isn’t enough substantial evidence to advocate for its widespread usage.

A meta-analysis conducted in 2019 suggested that lidocaine nasal spray may offer some relief from pain and reduce the need for additional rescue medications in cases of acute migraines. Nevertheless, due to the rapid recurrence of migraine pain in some individuals, its effectiveness may be limited. (5)

Ongoing research is being conducted to explore the use of lidocaine and nerve blocks for migraine treatment. Scientists are investigating various methods to numb or desensitize the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) cells, including injections, laser treatments, and topical gels. These studies encompass a range of age groups, from children to adults, in pursuit of more effective migraine therapies. (6)

It is important to note that lidocaine nasal spray is typically used in conjunction with other migraine treatments and should be administered under the guidance of a healthcare provider. As with any migraine treatment, individual responses can differ, and it may not be suitable for all migraine sufferers.

Duration of Effectiveness of Lidocaine Nasal Spray for Migraines

Upon administration of nasal lidocaine, migraine sufferers may experience relief in a matter of minutes. This rapid onset of action is attributed to the rich vascular network in the nasal cavity, facilitating the swift absorption of the medication into the bloodstream. (7)

However, it is important to note that this relief is temporary. Often, pain may return within the span of an hour. (8) Lidocaine nasal spray is designed for short-term use, and extended or frequent application can lead to potentially severe side effects such as irregular heart rhythm and cognitive impairment. It is crucial to strictly adhere to recommended usage guidelines to ensure safety and efficacy.

Are There Any Side Effects and Risks to Using Lidocaine Nasal Spray for Migraine?

Just like any medication, Lidocaine nasal spray can also potentially cause side effects and carry certain risks. It is important to be aware of these before using it for migraine relief. Here are some potential side effects and risks associated with Lidocaine nasal spray: (9)

Side Effects:

  • Local Irritation: Some individuals may experience mild irritation or burning sensation in the nasal passages after using the spray.
  • Bitter Taste: Lidocaine can sometimes lead to a bitter taste in the mouth after administration.
  • Throat Discomfort: In some cases, users may experience a mild sore throat or discomfort in the throat area.
  • Voice Changes: There have been reports of temporary changes in voice quality, although this is relatively rare.
  • Nasal Congestion: Lidocaine spray may cause temporary nasal congestion in some individuals.

Serious Side Effects (Rare):

  • Allergic Reactions: While rare, some individuals may be allergic to lidocaine, which can lead to more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, hives, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction.
  • Cardiovascular Effects: In very rare cases, lidocaine can affect the cardiovascular system, potentially causing changes in heart rate or rhythm. (10)
  • Excessive Use: Using lidocaine spray excessively or for an extended period of time can lead to systemic absorption and increase the risk of side effects.

It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and usage instructions provided by a healthcare provider. If you experience any unusual or concerning side effects after using Lidocaine nasal spray for migraine, seek medical attention promptly.

Localized Treatments beyond Nasal Lidocaine for Migraines

In addition to nasal lidocaine, there are a wide range of localized medications tailored for addressing migraines:

Other Nasal Sprays:

Certain prescription nasal sprays are formulated with migraine-specific medications like:

  • Triptans (such as sumatriptan and zolmitriptan)
  • Dihydroergotamine
  • Calcitonin gene-related peptide (e.g., zavegepant)

Furthermore, there is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug known as nasal ketorolac, occasionally prescribed for alleviating moderate to severe migraine attacks. However, it is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not indicated it specifically for migraine treatment. (11)

Topical Gel:

Stopain is a menthol-based topical gel designed to ease migraine pain. Applying a small amount to the back of the neck and ears, up to four times daily, can offer relief. A 2015 study, supported by Stopain’s parent company, demonstrated a reduction in headache intensity within 2 hours of application during an acute migraine attack. (12)

Migraine Stick:

The Migrastil migraine stick, an over-the-counter product, provides relief for some individuals. This rollerball contains essential oils like lavender, peppermint, and spearmint, diluted with fractionated coconut oil. Application to areas like the temples and the back of the neck, ideally no more than every two hours, may provide relief. It is worth noting that it may cause irritation for sensitive skin.

However, again, it is necessary to be aware that according to the American Migraine Foundation, essential oils are not recognized as an established treatment for migraines. (13)


Lidocaine nasal spray presents a promising avenue for alleviating migraine pain. Its rapid absorption and targeted numbing effect on nerve cells associated with headaches offer a potential solution for those seeking relief. However, it’s crucial to be aware of potential side effects and use the spray under the guidance of a healthcare provider. While further research is needed to fully understand its efficacy, Lidocaine nasal spray represents a valuable option in the quest for effective migraine management.


  1. www.healthlinkbc.ca. (n.d.). Lidocaine Spray – Mucous Membrane | HealthLink BC. [online] Available at: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/medications/lidocaine-spray-mucous-membrane.
  2. www.brighamandwomensfaulkner.org. (n.d.). Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. [online] Available at: https://www.brighamandwomensfaulkner.org [Accessed 13 Sep. 2023].
  3. Dubey, P. and Dubey, P.K., 2018. Intranasal lignocaine spray for sphenopalatine ganglion block for postdural puncture headache. Saudi Journal of Anaesthesia, 12(2), p.364.
  4. Mohammadkarimi, N., Jafari, M., Mellat, A., Kazemi, E. and Shirali, A. (2014). Evaluation of efficacy of intra-nasal lidocaine for headache relief in patients refer to emergency department. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, [online] 19(4), pp.331–335. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4115349/.
  5. Chi, P.W., Hsieh, K.Y., Chen, K.Y., Hsu, C.W., Bai, C.H., Chen, C. and Hsu, Y.P., 2019. Intranasal lidocaine for acute migraine: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS One, 14(10), p.e0224285.
  6. Mojica, J., Mo, B. and Ng, A., 2017. Sphenopalatine ganglion block in the management of chronic headaches. Current pain and headache reports, 21, pp.1-8. ‌
  7. https://headaches.org/. (n.d.). Lidocaine | National Headache Foundation. [online] Available at: https://headaches.org/lidocaine/ [Accessed 13 Sep. 2023].‌
  8. American Migraine Foundation. (n.d.). Do Nasal Sprays for Migraine Work? | AMF. [online] Available at: https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-nasal-sprays/ [Accessed 13 Sep. 2023].
  9. MedicineNet. (n.d.). LIDOCAINE SPRAY – MUCOUS MEMBRANE (Xylocaine) side effects, medical uses, and drug interactions. [online] Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/lidocaine_spray-mucous_membrane/article.htm [Accessed 13 Sep. 2023].
  10. Moellentin, D.L., Stewart, D. and Barbour, J. (2016). Case Study of Fatal Stroke Following Intranasal Lidocaine. Hospital Pharmacy, [online] 51(8), pp.662–664. doi:https://doi.org/10.1310/hpj5108-662.
  11. HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/022382s018lbl.pdf [Accessed 13 Sep. 2023].
  12. St. Cyr, A., Chen, A., Bradley, K.C., Yuan, H., Silberstein, S.D. and Young, W.B., 2015. Efficacy and tolerability of STOPAIN for a migraine attack. Frontiers in Neurology, 6, p.11.
  13. American Migraine Foundation. (n.d.). Alternative Migraine Remedies. [online] Available at: https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraine-catpreventive-treatmentsmythbusters-migraine-remedies/.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 28, 2023

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