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Does Gabapentin Help With Sciatica? What You Need To Know!

Picture this: you're going about your day, and suddenly, a bolt of pain shoots down your leg, making every step a struggle. Welcome to the world of sciatica - a common condition that can turn even the simplest tasks into a painful ordeal.


Today, we're diving into gabapentin, a popular medication that is used to treat sciatica, to see if it's the real deal or just another pill that over promises and under delivers. Let's check it out!



LivaFortis explores whether gabapentin can help with sciatica or not


Understanding Sciatica - What Exactly Is Sciatica?


Let's start with the basics. Sciatica isn't picky; it can affect anyone, from gym buffs to desk jockeys. Sciatica happens when something pinches or irritates the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back through your hips and down each leg. The result? Pain. Lots of it.


How Common Is Sciatica?


Before we get into gabapentin, let's talk numbers. Recent data suggests that sciatica can strike anywhere from 10% to 40% of the population at some point in their lives. That's a whole lot of people dealing with a whole lot of pain.



Can Gabapentin help with sciatica? LivaFortis finds out!

What Is Gabapentin?


If you are a long time low back pain or sciatica sufferer then you might have heard about a medication called Gabapentin. According to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic, Gabapentin is a drug that generally used to "prevent and control partial seizures, relieve postherpetic neuralgia after shingles and moderate-to-severe restless legs syndrome".


What does any of that have to do with low back pain you may ask? That is an excellent question and one that we are going to answer! Keep reading to find out!



Gabapentin is often used off label for treating low back pain

How Can Gabapentin Help With Low Back Pain?


In recent years many doctors have started prescribing Gabapentin off-label for low back pain. What does that mean? It means that although the product was not designed or tested to treat low back pain many doctors are giving it to back pain patients anyway.


Why would they do that you ask?


Many people who suffer from chronic low back pain struggle to find relief from the pain and are often willing to try almost anything to be able to live a pain-free existence. This leads them to try almost anything once, and Gabapentin is one of the latest offerings.


Unfortunately the science doesn't seem to support this treatment at all. Let's take a closer look.



There is a lack of clinical evidence to support the use of gabapentin for low back pain.

Gabapentin - What The Science Says


In 2016 a randomized controlled trial, published in the journal Pain looked at over 100 patients with low back pain who received gabapentin for 12 weeks and studied the effects of the medication on their pain.


Based on their research, the authors of the study unfortunately concluded that "Gabapentin appears to be ineffective for analgesia in chronic low back pain".


A 2017 evidence-based practice guideline from the American College of Physicians examined noninvasive treatments for nonradicular low back pain and found "insufficient evidence to support the use of gabapentin for acute or chronic back pain". in.



Does gabapentin work specifically for sciatica? Science says not really.

What About Gabapentin Specifically For Sciatica?


In the world of low back pain sciatica is a term that is often used incorrectly to talk about low back pain in general. True sciatica is what we mentioned above - pain that directly affects the sciatic nerve.


The trials we mentioned above seem to look mostly at low back pain (although they did consider radiating pain which could include sciatica). So what about sciatica, specifically? Let's check it out!



livafortis looks at when doctors use gabapentin for low back pain.

Gabapentin for Sciatica: The Good and the Not-So-Good


Now, let's break down the pros and cons of gabapentin for sciatica:


Pros Of Gabapentin For Sciatica:


  1. Pain Relief: Studies have shown that gabapentin can help ease leg pain caused by sciatica. In fact, some folks saw significant improvement after just a couple of weeks of taking it.

  2. Better Mobility: If you're struggling to get around because of the pain, gabapentin might be able to help. By dialing down those pesky nerve signals, it can make moving around a little less agonizing.

  3. Fewer Side Effects: Compared to other meds, gabapentin tends to be pretty gentle. Sure, it can cause some dizziness or drowsiness, but it's usually nothing too serious.

LivaFortis explores some reasons why gabapentin should not be used for low back pain.

Cons Of Gabapentin For Sciatica:


  1. Hits or Misses: Gabapentin doesn't work the same for everyone. While it's a game-changer for some, others might not get much relief at all.

  2. Side Effects: Like any medication, gabapentin can come with its fair share of side effects, from feeling woozy to packing on a few extra pounds. It's nothing major for most folks, but it's something to keep in mind.

  3. Risk of Dependence: There's a chance you could become dependent on gabapentin if you're not careful. That's why it's important to stick to your prescribed dose and not go rogue.

Studies have not shown gabapentin to help with low back pain relief.

Does Gabapentin Help With Sciatica? What Science Says.


When it comes to studies that look specifically at sciatica unfortunately the results are about the same as with low back pain in general.


Another meta analysis that was recently published in 2022 looked at almost 1000 patients with sciatica who received different sciatica treatments. Two trials compared gabapentin with placebo treatment (no treatment) while one compared gabapentin with a pain medication called Tramadol.



Clinical trials do not support the use of gabapentin for low back pain relief.

Unfortunately when the researchers looked at the results they found that "There were no statistically significant differences between pregabalin and placebo in leg pain at 2 weeks, at 8 weeks, nor 26 weeks and 52 weeks".


With regards to back pain the results showed that "no statistically significant differences were found at 2 and 8 weeks, 26 weeks and 52 weeks".



Sadly gabapentin seldom brings people relief from sciatic nerve pain.


Ultimately the researchers concluded that "gabapentin did not relieve pain or improved disability after 8 weeks of treatment compared to placebo".


The researchers went on to say that "Our results are consistent with previous systematic reviews... assessing the effectiveness of anticonvulsants on low and back pain relief. Their findings reflect that these drugs were related to a higher risk for AE and were ineffective both for the treatment of pain associated with acute sciatica and functional disability".



Physical therapy has been found to be better than gabapentin for back pain relief

Conclusions


The verdict? While gabapentin might take the edge off your leg pain, it's not a miracle cure for sciatica. It may be able to bring relief to a few patients but overall research does not seem to support its success for sciatica.


So, there you have it - the lowdown on gabapentin for sciatica. Gabapentin may bring relief to a select few who suffer from low back pain but it is important to know that there are risks associated with taking it.


If you're suffering from sciatica pain, it's worth talking to your doctor about whether gabapentin might be right for you. Remember, everyone's body is different, so what works for one person might not work for another. Your doctor might recommend a less risky treatment, like physical therapy, that does have data to support it, and that has a better chance of bringing you some relief.

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