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How Effective Is Gabapentin for Migraines?

By Lynelle Harmon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication, typically prescribed for seizures, that has proven to be effective in the reduction of migraine frequency. Success in using gabapentin for migraines depends upon following dosage instruction, avoiding potential interactions, and managing potential side effects. Efficacy will ultimately vary from person to person due to unique body chemistry, and the treatment regimen may require some adjustments.

A 2001 study from the Houston Headache Clinic found that prescribing gabapentin for migraines to participants over a period of 12 weeks led to an overall reduction in migraine frequency. Dosage during the testing began at 300 milligrams (mg) and stepped up to 2400 milligrams (mg). The study levels should not be used as a personal dosing guide, however, as the correct starting dosage for a patient should be decided in conjunction with a physician. This off-label use of gabapentin needs to be carefully calibrated and monitored by a medical professional.

The most common dosage forms of gabapentin are capsules, tablets, and extended-release tablets. Capsules and tablets are typically taken three times a day, with or without food, while the extended-release tablets are usually taken once per day. It’s best to take the medication with a full glass of water to aid in its digestion.

Potential drug interactions exist when taking gabapentin for migraines. Patients should inform the doctor if concurrently taking doses of hydrocodone, naproxen, or any medication that may cause dizziness as a side effect. Antacids should only be taken at least two hours before or after a gabapentin dose. The doctor may discontinue treatment for patients in need of surgery or for those who’ve become pregnant.

A number of participants in the Houston study dropped out due to the occurrence of some of the typical side effects of gabapentin for migraines, which include drowsiness, dizziness, and sleep disturbances. Serious potential side effects that exist for this medication include suicidal thoughts, manic behavior, and seizures. Dosage might be altered or ceased if serious side effects present or if minor effects persist.

The most effective treatment for migraines will ultimately depend upon a patient’s body chemistry. If gabapentin for migraines isn’t proving effective, the doctor may first attempt to alter the dosage. Continued failure will often lead to a switch to another type of medication. It’s also possible that gabapentin will be prescribed concurrently with another migraine treatment such as anti-nausea medications, opiates, or triptans.

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Discussion Comments
By bear78 — On Dec 30, 2013

@turquoise--Gabapentin didn't work for me but I know that it works for many people. My migraines might have been too severe for gabapentin to be effective. My brother-in-law is on it for migraines too and it has worked great for him. He does take a high dose though. So it doesn't have the same effect on everyone and the dose might have to be adjusted.

By SteamLouis — On Dec 30, 2013

@turquoise-- I'm on gabapentin for migraines and it's working well for me. Yes, there are some side effects, but I've taken migraine medications like topiramate with much worse side effects, so gabapentin is not so bad. Actually the only major side effect I'm experiencing is weight gain but I'm pain-free now almost all the time.

Migraines had ruined my life and I feel like I got my life back now. Before crossing off gabapentin completely, at least give it a try. If you can't handle the side effects, you can quit it. But give it a few weeks at least, because the side effects take some time to settle down.

By turquoise — On Dec 29, 2013

It sounds like the side effects of gabapentin are as bad as migraines. My doctor said that if my current migraine medication doesn't work, I could try gabapentin. But after reading about the side effects, I don't think I want to try it.

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