How Long Does It Take For Gabapentin To Work For Nerve Pain?

Ouch! We’ve all more or less felt pain in our lives. However, all the different types of pain we feel aren’t the same. There is a particularly nasty type of pain, the severity of which is only felt by those who experienced it. It is none other than the infamous nerve pain. 

A disease process usually accompanies this type of pain. Various medications have been devised to combat this nerve pain. Among them, gabapentin is noteworthy, and it is what we’ll be talking about today.

Before we dive into the details of ‘gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work,’ let’s get to know what nerve pain is?

What Is Nerve Pain?

Nerve pain is also known as neuropathic pain or neuralgia. This type of pain is felt when a disease affects the nerves. 

Nerves are like cables relaying information between our body and the brain. Sensory nerves carry information of sensations like pain, touch, heat, etc., to our brains.

Usually, when any portion of our body is damaged, some chemicals are released. These chemicals stimulate the nerve receptors. This causes the sensation of regular pain. In this case, the damage is to the body tissue.  

However, when any injury or abnormality due to any disease compresses these nerves, you will feel the pain of different natures. This pain is nerve pain. Different people handle this pain differently. For some, it can be a continuous pricking sensation; for others, it can be burning, stabbing pain.

Causes of Nerve Pain

There are various causes of nerve pain. Any disease which causes nerve compression or damage to the nerves can cause nerve pain. Some of them are given below:

1.       Nerve pain can follow the incidence of shingles or herpes zoster infection. This type of nerve pain is called postherpetic nerve pain or neuralgia. This pain persists even though the blisters or rash of herpes disappears. It occurs suddenly and can be very severe.

2.       Another common cause of nerve pain is the ubiquitous condition diabetes. In diabetes, there is excess sugar in the blood. This causes delays in wound healing as well as damage to the nerves. We call this diabetic neuropathy, and it may be the cause of nerve pain.

3.       Diseases affecting the spine can also cause nerve pain. The spine houses the spinal cord. Thus, any disease affecting the spine can compress the nerves. This causes nerve pain to occur. Degenerative joint and bone disease, vertebral disc disease like herniated disc are the common causes.

gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work
Image by Holger Langmaier from Pixabay

4.       Carpal tunnel syndrome too can cause nerve pain. When a nerve of the hand, called the median nerve, gets compressed at the wrist, this condition occurs.

5.       Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve is compressed. The sciatic nerve is a big nerve supplying the back of the hip and the legs. It is located at the back of the thigh. It is prevalent to have sciatic nerve pain after a knee replacement operation.

This nerve may be compressed as it leaves the spinal cord or in other conditions. This results in nerve pain felt at the lower back, buttocks, back of the thigh, and legs. If you are wondering about ‘gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work,’ check if you have a sciatica nerve issue or not?

6.       Space occupying lesions like cancers and tumors are the cause of nerve pain as well. As the cancerous tissue grows abnormally, it can compress the nerves surrounding it. This causes the sensation of nerve pain.

7.       Cancer and other tumors can cause nerve pain. As they grow, tumors can press on the surrounding nerves. Cancers can also grow out of the nerves themselves. Sometimes, treatments for cancer — such as chemotherapy drugs — can damage the nerves, leading to pain.

8. Several other conditions are leading to nerve pain. For example, about one-third of the patients suffering from HIV infection have nerve pain. Other requirements include multiple sclerosis, stroke, fibromyalgia, etc.

Treatment For Nerve Pain

The primary treatment of nerve pain involves the removal of the cause of the pain. It means that the cause of a compressed or damaged nerve has to be resolved. However, that is not possible all the time. Also, it is unbearable to tolerate the pain for the entire duration of the disease. 

Thus, there are several medications for just treating the pain. These include topical ointments, lotions, patches, oral tablets, capsules, suspensions, and injections for severe cases. You can use various drugs like anticonvulsants, antidepressants, NSAIDs, steroids, opioids, etc.

These drugs have different properties, effectiveness, and toxic side effects. Among these options available for treating nerve pain, gabapentin has proven itself to be quite effective. So, let’s see what this drug is all about.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is an amino acid (building blocks of proteins) like a molecule. This drug first gained its approval for use in 1993. Later in 2004, this drug became a generic medication in the USA. Gabapentin is a gabapentinoid, another gabapentinoid being pregabalin. It is now a widely used drug for treating nerve pain and other conditions.

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Scientists originally developed gabapentin to be similar to and act like GABA. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a chemical produced by our bodies. This chemical inhibits some neurons of the brain. 

Later it was found that this drug acts differently by blocking calcium channels in nerves. This prevents the release of chemicals from nerves. What this does is prevent some of the nerves from transmitting signals. 

It is effective because the abnormal and continuous pain signals in the brain are stopped. Thus, this drug provides relief from the constant gnawing pain of neuralgia.

Uses and Effects

Gabapentin is used as a first-line therapy drug in treating nerve pain. It is moderately effective in its action and doesn’t have severe side effects. Some of its applications are given below:

Gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work

Chronic nerve pain, especially if undiagnosed, can be treated using gabapentin. This doesn’t mean that you should just take this medicine and not go to a doctor. Instead, it can be helpful to diminish the pain while a particular diagnosis is being made. 

The reason is that this drug is effective in all forms of nerve pain except for trigeminal neuralgia. In this condition, the nerves of the face are affected. So, you won’t have to worry about taking gabapentin for it, and stop worrying about ‘gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work.’

When it comes to a specific diagnosed disease, physicians use this drug as well. In the most common causes of nerve pain, diabetic nerve pain, central pain, and postherpetic neuralgia, gabapentin is the mainstay drug. However, gabapentin may not work as effectively while treating nerve pain due to cancer or HIV.

Don’t get panicked if Gabapentin has stopped working for you. It’s easy to make it work again. Click to know how you can do it.

Epilepsy

The primary use of gabapentin is in the form of an anticonvulsant drug. Convulsions or seizures are caused due to abnormally high brain activity. This disorder can affect the brain as a whole or regions of the brain. When only a part of the brain is involved, then it is called a focal seizure. Gabapentin is used to treat this focal kind of seizure. 

However, this drug isn’t used alone. Instead, it is used in combination with other anticonvulsant drugs. Physicians prescribe gabapentin for patients who are three years or older to control seizures.

Restless leg syndrome

People who are affected by this syndrome have an irresistible urge to move their legs. This causes much discomfort. It happens mainly when the patients’ legs are immobile for long periods. Thus, restless leg syndrome attacks during sleeping, or prolonged sleeping, or lying. 

This syndrome is another indication of the use of gabapentin. In this case, an extended-release formulation of the drug is essential. Small amounts of gabapentin are released over a long period. This ensures ample treatment of the restlessness associated with this disease. 

Others

Besides the uses mentioned above, gabapentin is used for several other conditions as well. For example, gabapentin can prove to be effective in anxiety disorders. Although there is insufficient research on this matter, evidence has been found that indicates that gabapentin is helpful in this effect. However, gabapentin is not effective in case of panic attacks.

Gabapentin proved its usefulness in the case of sciatica as well. There aren’t adequate mass studies or research to this effect. However, many patients have reported that their sciatica pain subsided considerably after taking gabapentin. Because sciatica, after all, is a form of nerve pain caused by sciatic nerve compression.

In Which Forms Are Gabapentin Available?

Gabapentin is commercially available in different forms like tablets, capsules, liquid solutions, etc. The tablets or capsules can be regular or extended-release, depending upon the condition. For the treatment of nerve pain or epilepsy, the drug is to be taken at regular intervals. 

But for the treatment of restless leg syndrome, the physicians generally prescribe the extended-release formulation. In this case, if you ask ‘gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work,’ the answer will be ‘it takes time. 

How Much is Gabapentin used?

The dose of gabapentin varies from individual to individual. The reason is that different people absorb this drug to different extents. Moreover, the drug can’t be given in large quantities at the start. In the case of adults, doctors generally give 300 mg in one dose. 

On the first day, only one dose is to be taken, on the second day, two doses, and on the third day, three doses. From then on, the patient should continue three doses a day. They should take these doses in evenly spaced intervals. 

In this case, in 8 hours. However, if the patient doesn’t get pain relief, doctors can increase the amount of the drug per dosing. The dose increment has to be in blocks of 300 mg. The maximum recommended dose is 1800 mg. This dose is essential to treat nerve pain. 

How long does gabapentin take to work?

The human body absorbs gabapentin moderately fast. It has a half-life of around five to eight hours. It means that half of the drug administered gets out of the body in five to eight hours. Now, the onset of gabapentin varies from person to person. Generally speaking, it takes around half to one week for gabapentin to work. However, for some people, it may take longer for the pain to go away.

gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

So, if you’re suffering from nerve pain, diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, sciatica, or anxiety, then you can expect to feel better within a few days of gabapentin administration.

Adverse Effects

Like almost all drugs, gabapentin has some adverse side effects as well. However, in comparison with other medications, gabapentin is better tolerated. Some of the common adverse effects are:

Somnolence

It means that the person taking the drug will feel sleepy more than usual. So, if you’re feeling a bit more tired than usual while on gabapentin, it is nothing to be worried about. This drowsiness will go away on its own. 

Dizziness

The person taking the drug might feel a bit dizzy; however, it usually subsides soon. The faster the drug works, the quicker it will disappear. You can start asking your doctor ‘gabapentin for nerve pain how long it takes to work’ if dizziness continues for too long. 

Headache

Headaches, too, are reported side effects of taking gabapentin. However, if you have an intense headache, it’s best to inform your doctor about it. 

Ataxia

Ataxia is a more severe side effect of gabapentin. It means that the patient has problems maintaining balance, speech problems, lack of coordination, etc. This is also termed as drunken gait or alcohol gait. This is a particularly bothersome side effect; however, it isn’t that common. Even if it does occur, it will resolve on its own in due time. 

Weight Gain

Gabapentin administration can cause weight gain as well as peripheral edema. But, these two side effects are infrequent and not that severe.

Allergic Reaction

Like all drugs, gabapentin too can cause allergic or hypersensitivity reactions. However, this is very infrequent and calls for a change in medication.

Some of these adverse effects may occur initially. But, later on, as the drug regimen continues, these effects recede. 

Gabapentin for Dogs?

That’s right; gabapentin is one drug that affects both humans and pets like dogs, cats, etc. Veterinarians prescribe this drug to dogs to treat seizures, help with pain, anxiety, and sedation. 

Like in humans, dogs have to take this drug three to four times a day. This provides immense pain relief for our loyal companions. Common side effects are the same as humans. They include sedation, sleepiness, allergic reactions, etc.  

The bottom line, gabapentin is quite an effective drug. Does it have side effects? Yes, it does, but they are minimal and occur in inappropriate dosing. However, it does provide adequate treatment for nerve pain, diabetic neuropathy, back pain, sciatica, back pain, insomnia, etc. Like humans, dogs won’t be able to ask ‘gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work,’ but you can tell them that it varies. 

FAQ

How does Gabapentin work for nerve pain?

Gabapentin blocks a type of calcium channel in the nerves. This inhibits the release of chemicals in the brain, which gives the feeling of constant nerve pain. Due to this inhibition, nerve pain subsides on the application of gabapentin.

Can I take gabapentin as needed for nerve pain?

You shouldn’t take gabapentin if you just feel like it. Because sudden administration of this drug could result in adverse effects, the drug’s sudden stoppage can cause withdrawal symptoms. So, you should only take this drug if your physician prescribes it.

How does Gabapentin make you feel?

Gabapentin can make you feel calmer, more relaxed, even a bit sleepy. However, in regular doses for pain relief, this drug generally doesn’t produce any noticeable effects.

How long does gabapentin take to work for sleep?

Gabapentin isn’t a drug that is meant to put you to sleep or something immediately. Instead, after one week of administration or so, this drug can improve sleep quality considerably. 

Conclusion 

‘Gabapentin for nerve pain how long does it take to work is no longer a mystery for you. Now you know all the nitty-gritty details to keep the nerve pain on the bay using Gabapentin. 

However, if something is not right, always trust your gut feelings and call your doctor. He or she is a righteous person who gives you the most effective advice. 

Dr. SM Kamal Hasan, MBBS(Medicine), Rangpur Medical College and Hospital Rangpur- Dinajpur Highway, Cantt, Near Central Jail, Rangpur 5400, Bangladesh

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