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How Effective Is Metoclopramide for Migraines?

By Jamie Nedderman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Metoclopramide for migraines is one possibility for a patient’s relief. Although primarily a digestive system drug, some studies suggest that metoclopramide might alleviate migraine symptoms. There isn’t one fail-safe drug that works for every individual’s migraine or on every side effect of the migraine. Patients and their doctors should study what has worked for them in the past and should balance a trial of metoclopramide with the risks and side effects.

Individuals who suffer from migraines might desperately seek ways to alleviate the pain. Medical journals, doctors on television and the Internet can contribute a wealth of information to someone who is looking for relief. The use of metoclopramide for migraines is one potential solution.

The primary uses of metoclopramide actually involve digestive system issues, such as heartburn and ulcers. It works by causing food to move faster as it is digested. Metoclopramide also is prescribed to people who are coming out of surgery or recovering from chemotherapy to assist with digestive-related side effects.

Metoclopramide for migraines treats the nausea and vomiting that frequently accompanies the headache. It’s often used in combination with other medications to combat the pain. Some studies suggest that the medication generated better pain relief than a placebo, but others have shown the relief to be equal to other available migraine medications. For a patient who has tried other drugs, metoclopramide for migraines might be a desired trial for relief.

The risks of metoclopramide — especially a muscle problem called tardive dyskinesia — might be a deterrent for some users. Tardive dyskinesia causes an individual to involuntarily move muscles, especially in the face. This condition might never go away; even after stopping usage, and the risk increases the longer the drug is taken. For this reason, some doctors recommend stopping usage after 12 weeks. The risk is even higher for people who have diabetes, the elderly and women.

Side effects of metoclopramide vary from drowsiness to weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and problems with urination. More serious side effects include depression, lockjaw, problems with speech, heartbeat trouble, confusion and shaking. Rash, weight gain, trouble with breathing or swallowing and vision problems also are potential side effects. These more serious side effects require emergency treatment.

Metoclopramide drug interactions are dangerous for individuals who are taking depression medications. Any drugs that the patient takes should be revealed to the doctor or emergency room personnel so that potential side effects can be evaluated. Whether a patient should stop taking another medication to try metoclopramide will vary based on individual circumstances.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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