Can gabapentin cause involuntary movements? (3+ case studies revealed the truth)

As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided

In this blog post, we are going to answer the question, “Can gabapentin cause involuntary movements?”. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used for a number of conditions. 

However, this medicine can cause a number of side effects including involving movement of your limbs. This blog will also cover what researchers have to say about this side effect and the additional side effects of gabapentin that you should look out for. 

Can gabapentin cause involuntary movements? 

Yes, gabapentin can cause involuntary movements in your upper or lower extremities. These movements are caused when the drug makes your muscles contract or twitch against your will and there’s nothing you can do to control them. 

Many people have complained of having abnormal jerks, but this side effect is found more common in epileptic patients. 

What does research suggest? 

There are many case studies that have been evaluated by the experts and they have looked for clues to explain how gabapentin acts this way. 

Experts believe that side effects like involuntary movements are common with medications that can alter the amount of different neurotransmitters in your brain. One case study included a 72 year old woman who was a patient of essential tremors. 

She was put on propranolol but the drug caused severe bradycardia and it had to be stopped. Then her doctor put her on gabapentin and she was taking around 2100mg gabapentin per day, which is a high dose. 

Soon after her treatment started, she began to exhibit the signs of dystonia in her neck and upper extremities. Dystonia is characterised with involuntary and abnormal contraction of your muscles that usually occurs in small intervals and can seriously mess up your posture. 

The dose was then reduced to 1800 mg per day to help control the side effects, but it did nothing. The woman continued to suffer from dystonia and the doctor had no choice but to discontinue gabapentin. 

Another case study included a woman who was presented with myoclonus induced by the repeated use of gabapentin. The study also indicated that gabapentin can not only induce involuntary jerks in one or more types of muscles, but it can significantly worsen the pre-existing myoclonus. 

Another study also indicated that gabapentin can induce facial myoclonus and can make your facial muscles move involuntarily. This condition can make speaking and eating difficult for you. Make sure you rule out any existing health condition before starting to use gabapentin. 

One case study involved a young woman with no pre-existing health condition and she was absolutely normal. She was put on gabapentin to help relieve her upper arm pain. Soon after taking gabapentin, one side of her body started twitching and she suffered from involuntary tremors. 

Doctors diagnosed it as hemichorea which was induced by gabapentin. Hemichorea is a condition that involves involuntary movements in one side of your body. 

This indicates that gabapentin does not necessarily cause involuntary movements in people who are epileptic or have some other health condition. It can cause involuntary movements in those as well who are absolutely normal. 

This is exactly why it is recommended to give out your proper medical history and let your prescriber know about all the medications you’re currently taking. You should also include over-the-counter drugs that you often use. 

Is there anything you can do to prevent this side effect? 

No, there’s nothing you can do to prevent this side effect as they occur involuntarily. However, you can make some lifestyle changes to make your overall health better and your body stronger. These include:

Adopt a better lifestyle

Making lifestyle changes works well with everything. If you are experiencing involuntary movements of upper extremities, try to relax them. Engage in relaxing physical activities, like yoga. It helps to relax your muscles as well. 

Learn to relax. 

Stress and anxiety tend to make involuntary movements worse, and being relaxed may improve tremors. Although there is literally no way to remove stress from your life, it’s best to deal with it in a positive manner. Don’t take things to your head. Find a stress relieving activity that helps you to relax. 

Avoid alcohol  

Some people notice that their involuntary movements improve slightly after they drink alcohol, but the effect is temporary and definitely not a good solution. Involuntary movements tend to get worse once the effects of alcohol go away. This leads to alcoholism, which is considered a disease in itself. Be aware! 

Avoid caffeine. 

Avoid caffeine as it can increase your involuntary movements. Caffeine is a stimulant and it activates the chemicals in your brain that increase your alertness and makes you feel awake. Excessive coffee can make your brain more active and may increase the frequency and intensity of your involuntary movements.

What underlying medical conditions can cause involuntary movements? 

Involuntary movements can be a symptom of some underlying conditions 

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Stroke
  • Brain injury followed by trauma
  • Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease 

Some other known causes include:

  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Alcohol abuse or withdrawal 
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Anxiety or panic attacks.

What are the additional side effects of gabapentin? 

Additional side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth 
  • Weight gain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Somnolence
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Vision problems 
  • Cloudy mind
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors 
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain 
  • Difficulty in remembering things
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Unsteadiness
  • Muscle twitching 
  • Constipation 
  • Back pain
  • Increased appetite 
  • Fever

Gabapentin can cause some serious side effects. These include:

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

These side effects can vary from person to person. It is impossible to predict how your body will react once it is exposed to this medication. Some people get away with mild side effects, while others suffer terribly. 

Immediately talk to your healthcare provider if you experience unusual side effects while taking gabapentin. Do not recommend this drug to someone else and use it as long as your doctor has advised. 

Inform your doctor if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive. It is extremely important to ensure safety of your meds during your pregnancy. Some meds can cross placenta and are capable of causing unwanted side effects in the growing fetus. 

Inform your doctor if you’re a breastfeeding mother. Gabapentin may be capable of passing into the breastmilk and may cause side effects in newborns

What conditions are treated with gabapentin? 

Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. Gabapentin mimics the actions of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA works by inhibiting the excessive neuronal firing in the brain. It is used to treat the following health conditions:

Convulsions 

Gabapentin is used for the prevention and treatment of partial seizures. It can also be used in children above 3 years of age and in elderly patients as well. It may not suit some people, but overall it is considered a very good medication in order to relieve some epileptic symptoms. 

Nerve pain associated with shingles

Shingles is associated with terrible nerve pain that can be controlled by gabapentin. It is caused by the chickenpox virus that can stay dormant in you for a long, long time. 

This virus remains inactivated, but becomes active either because of compromised immunity or excess stress. This is indeed a very painful condition and some experts have related this pain to the pain that is caused by an actual heart attack. 

Restless Leg syndrome 

Gabapentin can also be used for the treatment, prevention and management of Restless leg syndrome. It manages the excessive and involuntary movements associated with this condition by controlling the excessive neuronal activity in your brain. 

Anxiety

Gabapentin is also used to treat anxiety because of its inhibitory mechanism of action. It is a GABA analog, as stated earlier, and can mimic the actions of this inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

Anxiety occurs because of the excessive neuronal firing in your brain. Gabapentin controls this excessive neuronal activity and helps to tone down the symptoms of anxiety. 

When to call your doctor? 

Immediately talk to your healthcare provider if you:

  • Start shaking uncontrollably
  • Can’t speak
  • Can’t eat or chew your food
  • Feel paralysed
  • Start exhibiting the signs of restless leg syndrome 
  • Start hallucinating 
  • Get aggressive or angry or suffer from sudden mood changes 

Conclusion 

In this blog post, we have discussed gabapentin induced involuntary movements. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. Gabapentin mimics the actions of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

It can cause involuntary movements of your upper or lower extremities. These movements are caused when the drug makes your muscles contract or twitch against your will and there’s nothing you can do to control them. 

Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it.

FAQs: can gabapentin cause involuntary movements 

Can gabapentin cause muscle jerks?

Yes, gabapentin can cause muscle jerks in your upper or lower extremities. These movements are caused when the drug makes your muscles contract or twitch against your will and there’s nothing you can do to control them. Many people have complained of having abnormal jerks, but this side effect is found more common in epileptic patients. 

Does gabapentin make you walk funny?

Ataxia or disturbed walking gait is a rare side effect of gabapentin and it may only affect people who already have some underlying mental health condition that interacts negatively with gabapentin and cause impairment of motor coordination. 

Can gabapentin cause neurological problems?

Gabapentin may cause neurological problems, but these side effects vary from person to person. In some people, gabapentin can induce suicidal behavior and depression. It can also cause impairment of sensory and motor coordination. Make sure you stick to the prescribed dose and do not deviate from it. 

What are the most serious side effects of gabapentin?

Serious side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

What should I avoid while taking gabapentin?

  • Narcotic analgesics: Both narcotic opioid analgesics and gabapentin decrease the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain. This can slow down your physiological functions including breathing rate. 
  • Alcohol can also act as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. The synergistic effects of alcohol and gabapentin can cause severe depression and suicidal behavior.
  • Certain diabetic agents may react with gabapentin and cause increased water retention, which results in swelling or edema in upper and lower extremities, or any other part of the body.

Conclusion 

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

[Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]