How long does it take for gabapentin to work for sciatica?

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Page last updated: 23/09/2022

In this blog post, we are going to answer the question, “How long does it take for gabapentin to work for sciatica?”. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used to treat a number of health conditions, including sciatica. 

This blog is focused on the safety and efficacy of gabapentin in the treatment of sciatica. We will also discuss some risk factors associated with sciatica and how you can prevent this painful nerve disease. 

How long does it take for gabapentin to work for sciatica?

Gabapentin can take up to 2-4 weeks to help relieve the pain associated with sciatica. However, it starts to relieve some of the psychological symptoms like insomnia or inability to sleep and the drug will start controlling your anxiety within a few days. 

Make sure you stick to your doctor’s recommended doses and do not take more than that. Gabapentin overuse can lead to dangerous complications. 

What does research suggest? 

Many research studies have monitored the pain relieving effects of gabapentin in sciatica. One study revolved around the case studies of actual people who were put on gabapentin for sciatic pain relief. 

One patient was first put on the commonly prescribed analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), paracetamol, and muscle relaxants and even narcotics. 

However, they provided relief for a small period of time and then the patient went back to his suffering. The doctor then put him on 300mg/day gabapentin and he actually felt relief in some of his symptoms right after taking the first ever dose. 

This was indeed a huge breakthrough. The dose of this patient was escalated to 600mg, around 3 times a day and it successfully treated the pain associated with sciatica. The second case also involved a man who was around 67 years of age. 

He could not tolerate the treatment with NSAIDs because some of his existing diseases were interacting negatively with NSAIDs. The patient could not tolerate opioids as well so no satisfactory outcome was achieved by using them. 

The patient was then put on gabapentin 300 mg once a day and the frequency was then increased. Gabapentin showed good changes and significantly relieved the symptoms associated with sciatica. 

Several other research studies have indicated the beneficial effects of gabapentin in toning down the symptoms of sciatica. 

How bad can sciatica get? 

Sciatica is the throbbing pain that originates from your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve starts from your lower back and its branches run along the length of your legs and your buttocks. Sciatic pain is known to be so severe that it can easily affect your everyday life activities. 

Some people can’t even seem to stand up straight because of the shooting pain down their legs. It also comes with swelling and tingling sensation, which is sometimes described as pins-and-needles sensation. Usually, sciatica occurs at only one side of the body. 

It commonly occurs when some deformity affects or presses your sciatic nerve. When the nerve is pressed, it starts to ache pretty badly. Common causes include herniated disk or bone deformity which makes sharp edges of the bone that can damage your sciatic nerve. 

How long does it take for gabapentin to work for sciatica?

The symptoms include:

  • Throbbing pain, usually in your back, hips, buttocks, the back of your thighs and your calves. 
  • Numbness or tingling sensation 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Burning sensation 
  • Feels like an electric shock 

What are the common causes of sciatica? 

The cause of the disease is just as we have described, that is, the damage to the sciatic nerve. However, there are some people who are most likely to suffer from this condition or people who are at risk. These include:

Diabetes 

Diabetes is known to damage your sciatic nerve directly, as it does not affect any bone. The high concentration of blood glucose itself makes the nerve malfunction and it starts to become painful. Make sure you keep your sugar levels maintained if you suffer from diabetes. 

Diabetes is a chronic condition and no medication can treat you if you don’t have a balanced and healthy diet or lifestyle. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to a number of complications. 

Age

Age is another factor as elderly people are more likely to suffer from sciatic pain. As the age increases, there are some natural deformative changes in the body that can press or somehow damage your sciatic nerve. 

Make sure you add good foods in your diet that can help strengthen your bones, muscles and nerves. No one can stop the natural process of aging, but your lifestyle can significantly help you to avoid certain complications. 

Obesity 

Obesity is another risk factor of sciatica. People who carry more weight are more likely to damage their spine because of all the pressure it is going through. 

This can make some structural changes in your spine which can compress your sciatic nerve and cause pain and inflammation associated with sciatica. Make sure you manage your body weight and protect yourself from a number of complications. 

Occupation

Some people have tough jobs where they have to carry weights or have to be in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time. Some people have to remain in sitting position for the matter of hours like drivers. 

This can increase your risk of getting sciatica. Make sure you take time to stretch or straighten your back. 

Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you begin to experience pain or tingling sensation in your lower back, buttocks or the back of the legs, as this is one of the most common routes of sciatic pain. 

Can you prevent sciatica? 

Yes, you can definitely prevent sciatica and eliminate the risk factors as this is partly in your hands. There are a few lifestyle changes that can help you do that:

  • Work out regularly. Keep your body moving and do strength training occasionally which can really strengthen your back muscles and your spine and prevent any deformative changes that may affect your sciatic nerve. 
  • Sit straight, especially if you have a job that requires prolonged sitting duration. Sitting straight can prevent structural changes of your spine that may press your sciatic nerve.
  • Keep your body movements good. Do not let it stay in one position for a long time. If you have been sitting for a while, get up and try to move a little. You can either walk or stretch your leg and back muscles. If you have been standing for a while, sit down. Do not stay in one position. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables which contain essential vitamins and minerals that can help promote your bone, muscle and nerve health. Eating junk foods or starving yourself not only increase the risk of sciatica, but several other health conditions. 

What are the side effects associated with the use of gabapentin? 

Like every other medication, gabapentin is also associated with some side effects. These 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. 

Conclusion 

In this blog post, we have discussed the time taken by gabapentin to start working for sciatica. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used to treat a number of health conditions. It can take up to 2-4 weeks to help relieve the pain associated with sciatica. 

However, it starts to relieve some of the other physiological symptoms like insomnia or inability to sleep and the drug will start controlling your anxiety within a few days. 

Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it. Using medications which can affect your brain is not something ideal and should not be encouraged unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. 

FAQs: How long does it take for gabapentin to work for sciatica 

How quickly does gabapentin work for nerve pain?

Gabapentin can take up to 2-4 weeks to help relieve the pain associated with your nerves. However, it starts to relieve some of the other physiological symptoms like insomnia or inability to sleep and the drug will start controlling your anxiety within a few days. 

Make sure you stick to your doctor’s recommended doses and do not take more than that. Gabapentin overuse can lead to dangerous complications. 

Does gabapentin provide immediate relief?

Gabapentin does not usually provide immediate relief and can take up to 2-4 weeks to noticeably tone down your nerve pain. However, it starts to relieve some of the other physiological symptoms like insomnia or inability to sleep and the drug will start controlling your anxiety within a few days. 

How much gabapentin is needed for nerve pain?

The starting dose of gabapentin is usually 300mg/day. The dose is later escalated to 600mg and the frequency of administration is also increased. However, the dose should not exceed 1800mg/day. 

Make sure you discuss everything in detail with your healthcare provider and ask if you’re at the best possible dose of gabapentin. Also inform your doctor if you’re taking any other medication. 

What does gabapentin do to a person?

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 which reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures. 

Gabapentin is also used to reduce the intensity of neuropathic pain by inhibiting nociceptors (pain receptors). This medication is a prescription medication and should be taken only at doses determined by your healthcare professional. 

Can you take gabapentin forever?

The duration of your treatment with gabapentin depends on the severity of your condition and how well you can tolerate this medication. Some people can not stand the long-term treatment because of the disturbing side effects, whereas others can function really well with this medication and they can use it for years. 

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