Gabapentin as a potential option for treatment of sciatica

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Gabapentin has been approved in the United States for the treatment of epilepsy and postherpetic neuralgia. Gabapentin has also demonstrated proven efficacy for the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and trigeminal neuralgia, although these represent off-label uses of the drug. However, to our knowledge, no data have been published regarding the efficacy of gabapentin for treating sciatica. We describe two patients with sciatica who were successfully treated with gabapentin. The first was a 32-year-old man with severe shooting pain in his left leg that was later diagnosed as sciatica secondary to a fifth lumbar-first sacral intervertebral disk herniation. The patient was treated with acetaminophen, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), narcotics, and muscle relaxants; he reported only limited pain relief with any of these agents or combination of agents. He was then prescribed gabapentin 300 mg once/day; his pain substantially improved, even after the first dose. The drug was titrated gradually up to 900 mg 3 times/day with good results. The patient subsequently underwent a laminectomy and diskectomy on the advice of his neurosurgeon, who assured him that the result would be immediate pain relief. After surgery, the patient continued to experience pain; however, his pain resolved completely after several weeks of receiving gabapentin 600 mg 3 times/day. The second patient was a 68-year-old Caucasian woman with renal insufficiency who experienced severe burning pain and numbness of abrupt onset in the posterior right leg; this was diagnosed as sciatica. The patient had contraindications for NSAID therapy and was intolerant of hydrocodone. Initial therapy with propoxyphene and acetaminophen, self-started by the patient, was ineffective. Gabapentin 100 mg at bedtime was started and then titrated up to 100 mg twice/day with 200 mg at bedtime. The patient's pain improved rapidly, and at follow-up approximately 5 weeks later, she was experiencing good pain control with gabapentin. Gabapentin is widely prescribed for management of peripheral neuropathic pain syndromes. To our knowledge, however, these two case reports are the first to describe sciatica successfully controlled with gabapentin. Because gabapentin has the potential to prevent central sensitization, consideration should be given to prescribing this therapy early in the course of sciatica. Further research using randomized, placebo-controlled trials are needed to validate the benefit of gabapentin in the treatment of sciatica.

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