Gabapentin for migraine prevention

Gabapentin is one drug that researchers have studied for preventing migraines. It has a high safety profile and few side effects. This makes it a good option for prevention.

Clinical studies

Results from some clinical trials have shown a modest benefit from the use of gabapentin for migraine prevention. However, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the organization that provides guidance for the use of drugs to prevent migraines, has stated that there is not enough evidence at this time to support the use of gabapentin for migraine prevention. Healthcare professionals can choose to prescribe gabapentin when other prevention therapies have not worked, however.

About gabapentin

Gabapentin is a drug that is approved to treat seizures in people with epilepsy. It is also approved to treat nerve pain from shingles, which is a painful rash caused by herpes zoster infection. It's used off-label for migraine prevention.

Gabapentin belongs to a class of drugs called anticonvulsants. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. Anticonvulsants help calm nerve impulses. It is believed that this action can help prevent migraine pain.

This drug comes as a capsule, tablet, or solution. You take it by mouth. Gabapentin is available as the brand-name drugs Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant. It’s also available as a generic drug.

Keep reading: What you need to know about off-label prescription drug use »

What is migraine?

A migraine is not just a headache. Migraines are usually more severe and last longer than headaches. Migraines can last as long as 72 hours. The major symptom of a migraine is pain that you usually feel on one side of your head. This pain is typically moderate or severe. Migraines also include other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and severe sensitivity to light and sound.

About 20% of people who have migraines experience an aura before the pain begins. An aura is a group of symptoms. You could have some or all of the following symptoms during a migraine aura:

  • Changes in your vision, such as seeing squiggly lines or having short-term, partial vision loss
  • Difficulty talking
  • Tingling or numbness of any part of your body

Migraine triggers

It is not known exactly why people have migraines. However, some people can track their migraine back to a certain trigger. Migraine triggers can include stress, lack of sleep, certain foods, and even hormone changes during a menstrual cycle.

Migraine prevention

Some people can prevent migraines by avoiding triggers. Others have prevented migraines successfully through relaxation techniques, acupuncture, or exercise. However, these therapies alone don’t work for everyone. Some people also need treatment with medication to reduce the number of migraines they have. The drugs used to prevent migraines are different from drugs that to treat migraines once a migraine starts. Drugs that prevent migraines, such as gabapentin, must be taken daily.

Talk to your doctor

Talk to your doctor about migraine prevention. Your doctor knows your medical history and is the best person to help you pick a treatment that is most likely to work for you. Your doctor may have you try other, more commonly used migraine prevention drugs if you have not already tried them. Your insurance company may also be more likely to cover these drugs for preventing your migraines. However, many plans do cover gabapentin for migraine prevention, so call your insurance company.