4 Gabapentin Alternatives That Will Help You Find Relief
All drugs come with a downside: their side effects. For some, they are tolerable and go away with time; however, some can be a real nuisance and affect your daily functioning, making you wonder if they might be causing more harm than good.
Gabapentin is one such drug that has shown promising results but brings a host of side effects. This makes us wonder, are the benefits worth the side effects? Are there any Gabapentin alternatives with lesser side effects?
Fret not as we will explore the troubles that surround the use of Gabapentin and effective alternatives to overcome this worrying dilemma.
Table of Content
- 1 Gabapentin – What Is It?
- 2 Gabapentin Alternatives
- 3 Are There Natural Gabapentin Alternatives?
- 3.1 Yoga and Pilates
- 3.2 Supplements
- 3.3 Physiotherapy and Strengthening Exercises
- 3.4 Capsaicin
- 3.5 Acupuncture
- 3.6 Water Aerobics
- 3.7 Essential Oils
- 4 Common Side Effects of Gabapentin
- 5 When Should You Start Worrying?
- 6 FAQs
- 7 Conclusion
Gabapentin – What Is It?
Before we delve deeper into the Gabapentin alternatives, it’s important to know what Gabapentin is and why it has been prescribed for you.
Gabapentin is an antiepileptic that has been approved as adjunctive therapy for partial seizures. Lately, it has been commonly prescribed for the treatment of neuropathic pain (or nerve pain). Examples of neuropathic pain are:
- Post-herpetic (or post-shingles) neuralgia
- Entrapment neuropathy (carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Cancer pain
- Peripheral neuropathy (commonly seen in diabetics, patients undergoing chemotherapy or those with vitamin deficiencies)
There has also been growing evidence suggesting that Gabapentin may be effective and clinically beneficial in other disorders such as:
- Anxiety disorder
- Substance use disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Essential tremor
- Restless legs syndrome (extreme discomfort in the calf muscles)
- Acute pain following surgery
If gabapentin does not work for you or believe the side effects are too severe, here’s a set of other drugs that do the same job.
This drug is also an anticonvulsant, and just like Gabapentin, you can take it for epilepsy, nerve pain, and anxiety. It differs from Gabapentin in terms of dosage and frequency of administration.
Commercially known as Topamax, this medication is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor. It is used to treat epilepsy and prevent migraines. Off-label, it has also been proven to treat neuropathic pain.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) such as amitriptyline and Dosulepin, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as duloxetine work to relieve pain as gabapentin alternatives.
This muscle relaxant treats skeletal muscle spasms, muscle clonus, rigidity, and pain caused by multiple sclerosis. As for gabapentin alternatives, It is also used to treat chronic neuropathic pain.
Are There Natural Gabapentin Alternatives?
There are no natural remedies available if you’re taking Gabapentin for seizures. But that’s not the case with neuropathic pain. Numerous natural remedies are used as alternatives or sometimes adopted alongside pain medications to relieve neuropathic pain. And the best thing? No harmful side effects of these gabapentin alternatives.
Yoga and Pilates
These help your body produce some natural hormones that are essential to relieve the symptoms of pain. By gently stretching the muscles and areas of the body that are causing you pain, you encourage them to repair themselves.
The muscle strength developed in yoga and pilates also helps take pressure off your nerves.
Since vitamin deficiencies are one of the major causes of peripheral neuropathy, taking supplements to correct these deficiencies may help ease your symptoms. However, it would help if you kept in mind that It is important only to take the recommended amount. Otherwise, high doses may bring detrimental effects. Some important supplements are:
Vitamin B Complex
Essential for the health of nerves, this supplement can help alleviate pain. Foods rich in vitamin B include eggs, beef, and soy products such as tofu.
Vitamin D deficiency can worsen nerve damage. Taking a supplement can help reduce the symptoms.
This is a potent antioxidant that is made in our bodies which eliminates free radicals. You can also find it in spinach and broccoli. Taking alpha-lipoic acid has been proven to reduce numbness, tingling, and burning sensations.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and can decrease numbness, burning, and tingling.
Magnesium may help if you’re experiencing chemotherapy-related nerve damage.
This amino acid is an antioxidant. It helps your heart and brain to function, as well as promotes muscle movement. L-carnitine also protects the nerve fibers, helps with nerve pain, and aids in nerve cell growth.
Physiotherapy and Strengthening Exercises
Physiotherapy functions to restore, maintain and make the most of a patient’s mobility, function, and well-being. This physical training help alleviates symptoms of stiffness, inflammation, and soreness associated with nerve pain besides improving flexibility and stability.
Capsaicin is a naturally occurring compound derived from cayenne peppers. It decreases the intensity of pain signals triggered by nerve damage. It is usually used as a topical ointment for those who cannot tolerate oral medications, but you can also incorporate cayenne pepper into your diet to experience its benefits.
Related: Does Spicy Food Kill Bacteria?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese alternative therapy that involves inserting thin needles into targeted areas of the body.
This stimulates the nervous system causing endorphins to be released. Endorphins reduce the perception of pain and help boost overall wellbeing. This ancient tradition not only relieves pain but also increases blood flow, which can restore nerve function.
Water aerobics is a form of hydrotherapy, where people find relief through water exercises. Some of these exercises can feel impossible for people with chronic pain.
However, with hydrotherapy, the effort expended to perform exercises is drastically reduced with the help of water buoyancy. This method has proven to positively affect pain, fatigue, and quality of life for people with fibromyalgia.
Essential oils are concentrated solutions made from plant extracts of potentially beneficial plants. They are both beneficial and inexpensive ways to help ease your pain.
Besides, most of them have a calming scent that helps reduce anxiety and promote a good night’s sleep. These are some essential oils that are effective for nerve pain relief:
Eucalyptus has a cooling effect on muscles and reduces pain and inflammation. It encourages blood circulation in several nerve conditions, including neuralgia and sciatica.
This oil sedates and has analgesic properties that have been proven to help alleviate neuropathic pain.
Lavender oil is prized for its pain-relieving properties. Its calming scent helps reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. This oil can help in the treatment of sciatica, muscle aches, neuralgia, and muscle spasms.
Peppermint oil contains menthol, which has a cooling effect on sore, achy muscles. It also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
This oil works as a strengthener for your nerves. It also promotes wound healing and has anti-inflammatory properties. Applying these oils to the area of pain can soothe the stinging and tingling caused by neuropathy.
Utilizing some of these remedies may have a positive effect on your nerve health. Not only can they help alleviate painful symptoms, but they can also help increase your overall health and well-being.
Common Side Effects of Gabapentin
The hard truth is that all medications come with their own drawbacks, and the trick is to choose the most tolerable ones. It only becomes worrisome if they are continuous and the adverse effects affect your daily life enormously. Some common side effects of Gabapentin are:
- Headache and body aches
- Unusual drowsiness or tiredness
- Jerky movements or tremors
- Double vision
- Swelling of your legs and feet
- Trouble speaking
- Problems with balance or eye movements
- Clumsiness or unsteadiness
- Constipation, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
When Should You Start Worrying?
Apart from the adverse effects mentioned above, some people have had more severe side effects, which include:
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Breathing difficulty or slowed breathing
- Increased seizures
- Mood or behavioral changes
- Violent behavior, aggression, or anger
- Anxiety, restlessness or irritability
- Depression that is new or worse
- Panic attacks
- Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- Muscle pain or weakness
These side effects may make you want to stop taking the drug altogether. However, it is important not to stop taking it abruptly. Consult your doctor, who will help you taper down the dose. Stopping Gabapentin suddenly can cause serious effects, such as withdrawal symptoms and worsen of seizures and neuropathic pain.
Because of the adverse effects, patients with certain underlying conditions aren’t prescribed gabapentin. Apart from the absolute contraindication for those who are allergic to it, this drug is also contraindicated in patients with the following underlying conditions:
- Depression or suicidal tendency
- Myasthenia gravis (a skeletal muscle disorder)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or decreased lung function
- Reduction in kidney function. This drug is cleared from the body via the kidneys. Hence, reduction in kidney function would prevent the elimination of the drug from the body resulting in a buildup of the drug which may be detrimental.
Why Is Gabapentin So Bad?
Despite its effectiveness, the US FDA has warned that Gabapentin can cause serious, life-threatening adverse effects such as respiratory depression, increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as impairment in balance and coordination.
Can I Discontinue Gabapentin if the Side Effects Worsen?
No. Consult your doctor, who will help you taper down the dose gradually. Stopping Gabapentin suddenly can cause serious problems, such as withdrawal symptoms and worsen of seizures and neuropathic pain.
Are There Other Drugs That Can Be Taken Instead of Gabapentin?
Pregabalin is Gabapentin alternatives for epilepsy, nerve pain, and anxiety. Other drugs for nerve pain include topiramate, baclofen, tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and Dosulepin, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as duloxetine.
What Are Natural Alternatives for Nerve Pain?
Yoga, pilates, physiotherapy, strengthening exercises, and water aerobics are natural alternatives that promote physical activity to reduce pain by stretching muscles and improving core strength and stability. Other alternatives are acupuncture, supplements, and natural oils.
Can Supplements Treat Nerve Pain?
Nerve pain can be a result of vitamin deficiencies (Vitamin B and Vitamin D). In this case, taking supplements to correct the deficiencies will help alleviate the pain. Other supplements such as alpha-lipoic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, and acetyl-l-carnitine have also been proven to help reduce neuropathy symptoms.
Because of the plentiful adverse effects of the drug, switching to Gabapentin alternatives seems to be a wise decision. Natural alternatives are commonly viewed as safer options without having to pump chemicals into your body, but caution is required whenever you start or quit any new treatment plan.
It is important to remember that different bodies function differently, so it is crucial to consult your healthcare provider to ensure a particular remedy applies to your personal circumstances.