Medicines and movement side effects

Also called drug-induced movement disorders

Some medicines can cause changes in your movement. This is sometimes called movement disorder. If you are taking a medicine and you're worried about changes to your movements, don't stop taking your medicine suddenly. Instead discuss this with your healthcare provider.

On this page, you can find the following information:

What are movement side effects?

Movement side effects are body movements that can be hard to control caused by medicines. They include muscle spasms and trouble sitting still. Movement side effects are sometimes called extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS).

Examples of movement side effects include: 

  • Moving around a lot or not being able to sit still. This includes feeling restless – you may have the urge to tap your fingers, fidget or jiggle your legs.
  • Severe muscle spasms in your face, neck, back, arms or legs.
  • Shaking or tremors in your hands, arms, or legs that are hard to stop.
  • Walking slowly or dragging your feet as you walk.

Examples of medicines known to affect movement

The following are examples of medicines known to affect movement. It's important to note that not all people get movement side effects with these medicines.

Movement side effect Examples of medicines known to cause this side effect
Feeling of being restless
Dystonia is uncontrolled movement of your body, caused by muscle cramps or spasms. It can occur in the head and neck causing twisting, or uncontrolled blinking 
Serotonin syndrome
build-up of serotonin in the body, often due to high doses, or if more than 1 medicine causing serotonin syndrome is used)

Note: This is not a complete list. If you're not sure if the medicine you are taking can cause changes in movement, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Alcohol and recreational drugs

Recreational drugs such as alcohol, narcotics, stimulants and hallucinogens also affect movement. Drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs while taking some medicines can make movement side effects worse.

What should I do about changes to my movements?

If you are taking a medicine and are worried about changes to your movements, don't stop taking your medicine suddenly. Instead discuss this with your healthcare provider. Sometimes there might be a different dose or a different medicine that you can take that has less effect on your movements, but your current medicines may need to be stopped or reduced slowly.

Keep in mind that people close to you may notice a change in your movements before you see it in yourself. If other people say they’ve noticed something, it’s probably a good idea to ask for help. 

How are movement side effects treated?

Treatment depends on how much you need the medicine that causes the side effects. If side effects are causing big problems for you, your doctor may lower your dose or stop the medicine. Otherwise your doctor may switch you to a different medicine. There are also medicines that can treat your movement disorder or reduce your symptoms.

Learn more

Learning about movement disorders from antipsychotic medicine MyHealth, Alberta, Canada


  1. Drug-induced movement disorders Australian Prescriber, 2019
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 27 Sep 2022