At least 39 million Americans suffer from migraines,¹ a medical condition that often causes severe head pain that can last for hours or even days. Migraine sufferers often experience nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, visual auras, and pain. Migraine pain can become so severe that it may leave sufferers unable to participate in everyday activities.
Because of their severity, migraine pain can send many people to the emergency room searching for relief. Migraines account for 1–4%² of all emergency room visits.
There are various treatments for migraines, including over-the-counter pain medication. When these medications don't work, a prescription pain-relief medication called Toradol might help. The primary use of Toradol is to ease pain after surgery.
However, doctors often prescribe it off-label as an effective medication to help relieve the pain associated with a migraine. Learn more about this medication, how it works, and when you should take it to help relieve the symptoms associated with migraine pain.
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Toradol is the brand name of a prescription drug called ketorolac. The FDA originally approved Toradol in 1997 to relieve moderate to severe pain. While the Toradol brand name is no longer on the market, generic versions of ketorolac are available today via prescription.
Ketorolac belongs to a class of medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including many common over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and naproxen.
Ketorolac is a stronger version of these over-the-counter medications. It is often used to treat pain after surgery, but doctors often prescribe it off-label to treat migraine pain.
Ketorolac is a common treatment in emergency rooms for migraine pain. One study found it may be a more effective pain relief option than other medications, though more studies are needed.
Ketorolac also causes fewer side effects than other pain medications commonly used for migraine pain relief, such as chlorpromazine. Patients who don't respond to chlorpromazine may respond better to ketorolac.
There are several methods to administer ketorolac for pain relief, including injections, pills, and nasal sprays. Ketorolac shots are most commonly used in the emergency room to treat acute migraine pain, while you may be prescribed to take oral pills at home. Your doctor will determine the best method for you and give you clear instructions on when and how to take the medication.
It's important to follow their instructions closely to avoid serious side effects.
NSAIDs, like ketorolac, work by blocking the body's ability to produce prostaglandins. These compounds trigger inflammation, fever, and pain within your body. By blocking the production of prostaglandins, NSAIDs are an effective short-term treatment for conditions such as arthritis pain, menstrual cramps, muscle aches, and headaches.
NSAIDs usually start working within a few minutes to a few hours. Because the body quickly metabolizes NSAIDs like ketorolac, most people start to feel relief from their painful migraine symptoms within a few minutes.
The effects of Toradol shots will last up to six hours. Depending on the severity of your pain, your doctor may recommend additional ketorolac injections or another prescription pain reliever that you can take orally.
Most people can tolerate NSAIDs well and experience minimal side effects. However, it's important to follow the directions on the label of your medication or the instructions given by your doctor to avoid complications. Taking more than the approved amount or taking NSAIDs for longer than recommended can lead to serious health conditions such as gastrointestinal bleeding and renal failure.
Ketorolac is only available via prescription from a doctor. There are several ways you can take the medication, including injections, infusions, pill form, or a nasal spray.
If you go to an emergency room or urgent care facility for migraine pain, the treating doctor may decide that ketorolac is the best option for pain relief, especially if you've already tried other over-the-counter NSAIDs. They may first administer ketorolac through an IV or inject the medication into a muscle. These methods help your body absorb the medication quickly, so you get faster relief for your migraine pain.
After the initial dose, your doctor may continue to schedule regular injections of the medication, or they may switch you to a pill form of ketorolac. You can continue the medication for up to five days. You may stop the medication as soon as your migraine symptoms go away.
The dosage prescribed by your doctor will depend on your age, medical history, and the severity of your migraine pain. Because of potential side effects, your doctor will want to give you the lowest dose of ketorolac possible that still provides relief from your migraine symptoms.
Like other NSAIDs, most people can tolerate Toradol well. However, there is a risk of side effects, which might include:
Ringing in the ears
Developing sores in the mouth
Skin turning yellow
Loss of appetite
Unusually fast heartbeat
Medical intervention isn't necessary in most cases for ketorolac side effects. Some of these side effects, such as mild nausea and fatigue, will go away as your body metabolizes the medication. They may also disappear as you get used to taking the medication.
However, you should report any unusual symptoms to your doctor. They can determine if you need to change your treatment plan or stop taking the medication altogether.
Along with more common side effects, some rare but serious risks are associated with taking ketorolac. These include increased risks of:
Gastrointestinal issues, including bleeding, abdominal pain, gastritis, rectal bleeding, and ulcerative stomatitis
Excessive bleeding after surgery or wounds that are slow to heal
Heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues
Acute renal failure
To decrease the risk of serious health complications following the use of ketorolac, it's important to follow your doctor's advice regarding how much and how frequently to take the medication.
Taking too much ketorolac can increase your risk of complications and lead to an overdose. Symptoms of an overdose include:
Vomiting, especially if it's bloody or looks like coffee grounds
Bloody or black stools
Loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
You should only take Toradol or its generic equivalent if prescribed to you by a doctor. Make sure you discuss your medical history with your doctor so they can prescribe pain relief medication while managing the risk of developing serious health conditions.
You should not take ketorolac if you:
Recently suffered from a heart attack or stroke
Have a history of ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding
Have kidney or liver disease
Are currently taking blood thinners
You should also avoid smoking and drinking alcohol while taking ketorolac. This can increase your risk of serious complications such as bleeding in the stomach.
Toradol is the former brand name of an NSAID called ketorolac. This medication works by blocking the production of prostaglandins in the body, which trigger pain and inflammation responses.
You can take ketorolac in several ways, including injections, nasal sprays, and pills. The medication is suitable for short-term pain relief and should not be taken for more than five days unless directed by a doctor.
Ketorolac has been shown to be an effective pain relief medication for migraine pain, causing fewer side effects than other pain-relief medications. People who don't tolerate other pain medications well may respond well to ketorolac.
While NSAIDs like ketorolac are generally well tolerated by most people, there is a risk of side effects. Most side effects, like mild nausea, dizziness, and fatigue, won't require medical attention. They should go away on their own as your body absorbs the medication.
However, ketorolac can also cause rare but serious side effects such as excessive or unusual bleeding and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and renal failure. You should not take ketorolac if you've recently suffered a heart attack or stroke or have a history of gastrointestinal bleeding. Always follow your doctor's instructions when taking this and any other medication.
What is migraine? | American Migraine Foundation
Drug approval package | U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Ketorolac | MedlinePlus
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs | StatPearls
Ketorolac injection | MedlinePlus
Toradol side effects | Drugs.com