What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant that is also known by the brand name Neurontin. Although this medication was initially approved to treat epilepsy, it has also become popular for the treatment of various other conditions. It treats nerve pain by blocking pain signals that travel from damaged nerves to the brain. It also reduces abnormal electrical activity in the central nervous system (CNS), therefore preventing seizures.
What is Gabapentin Used For?
This medication treats nerve pain that is usually a severe type of chronic pain and can be described as a burning, shooting or electrical shock sensation. It is caused by problems in the CNS or damage to nerves. Various conditions can lead to nerve pain including sciatica and diabetic peripheral neuropathy to mention two. There are also several high demand and positive off-label gabapentin uses. It is often recommended for the treatment of the following conditions:
- Anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.
- Insomnia, which involves difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night.
- Fibromyalgia, which is characterised by extensive pain and tenderness in muscles.
- Migraine, which involves severe and debilitating headache pain that is often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound.
- Restless leg syndrome, which is a condition that causes an irrepressible urge to move the legs, particularly in the evenings.
What are the Benefits of Gabapentin?
Various medical studies have been conducted to evaluate the use of gabapentin in treating nerve pain. A placebo-controlled study that involved 135 patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy took place to assess the safety and efficacy of gabapentin for pain. The study lasted 8 weeks and the outcome revealed a significant benefit in terms of improvements in pain. After the initial week, patients who received gabapentin nerve pain tablets also reported improvements in sleep compared with those who were given inactive placebo pills. After the second week, all pain-rating measurements improved for the patients who took gabapentin compared to those who received placebo.
Research studies have been carried out to investigate the usefulness of gabapentin for anxiety. They have found that this medication can be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. A 14-week study that involved 69 patients was conducted to assess the efficacy of gabapentin in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. The effects of this medication were compared to that of placebo and the results showed significant reductions in anxiety levels compared with placebo.
Studies have also revealed that gabapentin for sleep is beneficial in the treatment of associated disorders like insomnia, which continue to afflict a large proportion of the populous. This medication has been shown to increase slow-wave sleep (SWS) in healthy individuals. SWS is also referred to as deep sleep and is the stage of sleep that results in feeling well rested and energised in the morning. A study took place to determine the benefits of this medication in the treatment of primary insomnia. A total of 18 patients with insomnia were involved in the research and they received gabapentin tablets for at least 4 weeks.
A polysomnography was used in the study to determine results. This test records information about sleep patterns such as brain waves, heart rate and eye movement during sleep. In the study, the polysomnography determined that patients who took gabapentin experienced improvements in their overall quality of sleep. This was measured in terms of increased slow-wave sleep, better sleep efficiency and fewer awakenings after sleep onset.
Another condition that gabapentin for pain is often used for is the treatment of fibromyalgia. This condition is characterised by long-term, widespread muscle pain and is often accompanied by insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Fibromyalgia can be a disabling condition and it mainly affects women. A placebo-controlled clinical study was conducted to assess the efficacy of a gabapentin dosage for chronic pain in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
The duration of the study was 12 weeks and 150 participants with fibromyalgia were involved. The patients either received a gabapentin dosage of 1,200 mg to 2,400 mg daily or placebo so researchers could compare the difference of effects. At the end of the research, a significant reduction in pain was experienced by the participants who received gabapentin compared to those who received placebo. Patients who received gabapentin also benefited from less fatigue and improved overall sleep quality.
Gabapentin 300 mg is also beneficial in the prevention of chronic migraine. A study that involved 63 patients with chronic migraine was conducted to assess the effects of gabapentin in the prevention of this condition. The researchers allowed the participants in the study to treat their condition at home with medications like pain relievers and sedatives. After a washout period of eight weeks to remove all preceding treatments, the patients were given 1,200 mg gabapentin to take daily. At the end of the study, the results showed a considerable reduction in the severity and frequency of migraines among 30 patients who took gabapentin.
Furthermore, you can buy gabapentin and use this medication for the treatment of restless leg syndrome. This disorder is a CNS condition that leads to involuntary movements. A placebo-controlled study took place to evaluate the effects of gabapentin in people with restless leg syndrome. In total, 24 patients received either gabapentin or placebo to take for six weeks. After a washout period of one week, the treatment for the patients was crossed over. Consequently, all patients received either placebo or gabapentin during the study period.
The researchers used various questionnaires including the restless leg syndrome (RLS) rating scale, a pain scale, a sleep quality examination and a polysomnography to measure outcomes. The study found that, compared with placebo, the use of gabapentin tablets resulted in improvements in all rating scales. Additionally, the polysomnography, or sleep study, revealed fewer leg movements during sleep. It also revealed improvements in sleep architecture including increased slow-wave sleep, sleep efficiency as well as total sleep time. The study found that the patients who were experiencing pain as one of their main symptoms benefited the most from the use of gabapentin.
When Should Gabapentin Not Be Used?
In general, this medication is considered safe for the majority of patients to use. However, like all medications it may not be suitable for some people due to certain health or prevailing circumstances. Do not take it if you have ever had an allergic reaction to gabapentin or its ingredients. In addition, this medication may not be safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Are Gabapentin Side Effects Manageable?
This medication has an excellent safety profile and is unlikely to cause adverse reactions. Gabapentin side effects that may occur in approximately 1% of users include:
- Sleepiness – this side effect tends to wear off within one or two weeks.
- Nausea – taking this medication after a meal can help prevent nausea.
- Headache – ensuring that you get plenty of rest and keeping well hydrated can reduce the likelihood of headache.
Expert Advice for Maximum Gabapentin Results
This medication should be taken with some water, with or without food, for best results. It is best to take your dose at regular times each day. If you forget to take a dose, take it when you remember unless it is almost time for your next dose. The starting gabapentin dosage is usually low and it can be increased gradually until you reach the most suitable dose. The usual adult starting dose is between 300 mg and 900 mg per day. Thereafter, the dose can be increased to a maximum of 3,600 mg per day, which should be administered in three separate doses.
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