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Can Anticonvulsants Help Treat Chronic Pain?

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Updated April 09, 2009

Question: Can Anticonvulsants Help Treat Chronic Pain?
Answer: Yes, depending on the type of pain you have.

Anticonvulsants are seizure medications that have been used for many years to treat certain types of chronic pain. They have been most effective in treating neuropathic pain such as trigeminal neuralgia and migraines.

You might be surprised to hear your doctor prescribe a seizure medication for your chronic pain, but studies have shown that anticonvulsants are successful in controlling chronic pain caused by nerve damage. They are especially effective if pain is described as “burning,” which is often the case with peripheral neuropathy.

So why do they work? Well, research has shown that the mechanisms responsible for certain types of neuropathic pain are similar to those in certain types of epilepsy. The logic is simple: If it looks the same, chances are the same medication can be used to treat it. Still, the research is fairly limited. So far, more studies support the use of gabapentin and carbamazepine for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain.

If you have questions about whether anticonvulsants will work for your chronic pain, ask your doctor.

Sources:

Bandolier. Anticonvulsants for Chronic Pain. Accessed April 7, 2009. http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/painpag/Chronrev/antidc/CP077.html

Tremont-Lukats IW, Megeff C, and Backonja MM. Anticonvulsants for Neuropathic Pain Syndromes: Mechanisms of Action and Place in Therapy. Drugs. 2000 Nov;60(5):1029-52.

Wiffen PJ, Collins S, McQuay HJ, Carroll D, Jadad A, and Moore RA. Anticonvulsant Drugs for Acute and Chronic Pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001133. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001133.pub2.

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