Gabapentin and fibromyalgia may seem like an unusual combination, but it is a medication that has proven to provide significant relief for those that suffer with the chronic pain of the disease.
Gabapentin is more commonly known by its trade name, Neurontin. It is gaining such wide spread acceptance as a treatment for fibromyalgia pain that many of the insurance companies will now cover the medication without an appeal.
A lot of this acceptance comes from the new findings about fibromyalgia, and advances in diagnostic techniques for the disorder.
The latest about fibromyalgia
Up until a few years ago there wasn’t much in the way of testing that doctors could do to determine if a patient was suffering from fibromyalgia. The average time between the onset of symptoms and definite diagnosis was 5 years.
That is an interminable amount of time to suffer without knowing what is wrong with you, and for many people, those 5 years consisted of them being told that nothing was wrong with them and having counseling suggested.
In recent years there has been great progressed made in testing for fibromyalgia which may mean that less people have to suffer that long before they can begin to engage with effective treatments.
These new tests are a result of the findings of studies that are defining how fibromyalgia acts in the body and the mind. It is now known that there are detectable levels and changes in the brain that are detectable by scans that can conclusively prove that fibromyalgia exists within the body It is a chronic condition, but not fatal.
There is currently no known cure, but much is known now about how to manage its symptoms. This also means that there is a greater understanding of what may increase your risk for it, which can help to explain why drugs like Gabapentin and fibromyalgia can work so well together.
Who is now considered at risk?
It used to be that doctors thought that women over 40, and those with a family history of fibromyalgia were at risk of developing the disorder. Now, we understand that there is a complex series of triggers associated with the disease.
Women over the age of 18 with a family history of fibromyalgia are still considered to be at the greatest risk – but it is now acknowledged that men can get the disorder too. You can also develop it as a result of stress in childhood, a traumatic brain injury, severe illness and surgery.
The range of potential causes are so broad that there is no one cause to look too – but all of them do have a definite tie in to neurochemical processes that deal with stress and pain. Which is why Gabapentin may be so potent.
What is Gabapentin used for?
Gabapentin, also known as Neurontin, is a drug that is used to control seizures. It is highly successful as an anti-convulsant. It works by controlling the brain impulses and slowing down the electrical activity in the neural network.
This controls seizures, but it also slows down the impulses that work overtime with fibromyalgia to convey pain messages. One of the hallmarks of fibromyalgia is a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system.
It is a condition that is common with chronic pain ailments, the more pain you are in the more sensitive you become to pain.
That doesn’t just lower your pain threshold, but it also means that your brain chemicals to counteract pain are released in doses that may be too high. That could raise your risk of developing serotonin syndrome too – and that can be fatal.
What are the drawbacks of it?
Gabapentin is generally well tolerated by most, but it does have its own set of side effects that may not be well tolerated by some. The biggest one is the “morning fog” that many people experience on it.
If you have fibromyalgia, you already have fibro fog and the idea of adding even more confusion into the mix can be more than most people can handle.
There are ways to handle this so that you can better manage the side effects of the Gabapentin and fibromyalgia treatment so you don’t lose out on taking this very effective drug.
How to handle taking Gabapentin
If you find that the Gabapentin is making you groggy in the morning, or making you less capable of staying balanced – talk to your doctor about changing the time that you are taking the dose – and look to what you are taking it with as well.
Your doctor may move the dosage further away from a sleep medication, or add in a medication like Provigil to help minimize any of the “hangover” effects of the Neurontin.
Building a dialogue with your doctor that works
Don’t make the mistake that most people make when it comes to trying medications to treat your fibromyalgia which is stop taking something as soon as it causes a problem or discomfort.
Medication is very specific to the individual, this means that while it may be recommended to be taken during the day, it may need to be taken at a different time to keep the medication effective without diminishing the quality of your day.
Your doctor can also different type of release doses so you may not have to take multiple doses, but a time released dose that can lessen side effects too. All of this requires a dialogue with your doctor in which you are treated as an investigative partner.
Don’t assume that they have all the answers, medication is so individually that they need your feedback on your experience so that they can then apply their experience to crafting a better treatment program.
Creating an environment of patient centered care
Gabapentin and fibromyalgia can be a successful combination for treating the pain associated with the disease. When you combine this with other treatments for fibromyalgia, you have a much better chance to improve your quality of life through creating a treatment plan that is based in patient centered care where you and your doctor work together to find a way to make your symptoms recede.