Gabapentin. Generic for Neurontin.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a pharmaceutical drug, specifically a GABA analog. It was originally developed to treat epilepsy, and currently is also used to relieve neuropathic pain.
Uses For Pain
Gabapentin provides significant pain relief in about a third of people who take it for fibromyalgia or chronic neuropathic pain; however, results in side effects in two thirds of people. It is effective in reducing narcotic usage post operatively and is helpful in neuropathic pain due to cancer. When used for neuropathic pain it does not appear superior to carbamazepine. It appears as effective as pregabalin and costs less. It does appear to provide some benefit for complex regional pain syndrome or to be useful for migraine prevention.
Since I have been using Gabapentin, my general functionality and mood has increased significantly. I still have slight joint pain in my hands, but the locking and general discomfort is subsiding. My knee pain, due to long term arthritis damage, has decreased, but is not even close to being gone. I have found that the general discomfort I had when walking has let up quite a bit, and I am left being able to walk almost normally nearly daily. Only during a full flare do I have issues, or after sitting in a way that puts strains on the damaged ligaments. This all being said, I still have general exhaustion, and without caffeine or sugars, I have a hard time staying awake for the needed period of time during the day. The problem with this is that caffeine AND sugar (especially artificial sweeteners) cause additional pain and exhaustion for patients with fibro, arthritis, etc. I have tried making it through the days without using either of these stimulants, however I have not been able to do so. Not only do I need it to stay awake, but I think I may have become emotionally attached to my coffee and sugar intake.
Everyone has their own forms of pain, and everyone has their own forms of comfort. It is not uncommon for people to develop emotional attachment to foods, items, shows, OCD tendencies, and/or drinks, etc to deal with emotional pain. Anyone who has had to deal with any type of chronic illness and/or pain will be able to tell you about the intense waves of emotional pain that comes along with it, and the different ways that they learn to cope. When you have a chronic problem, it is not uncommon for one to live in fear. Fear of another flare, fear of the pending pain. How hard it is going to hit you. Will I be able to function? Am I going to miss work? Can I take care of my children? Can I take care of myself? Having these types of stress and worries put additional strain on your emotions, and can actually weaken the body, allowing your chronic illness to flare more often. It is a never ending process of emotional, physical, mental, and any other type of pain you can think of. It is really easy to fall into the pattern of comforting yourself with quick and unhealthy remedies. For me it is coffee, candy, and potatoes. Potatoes? Yes. Isn’t that strange? When I am feeling anxious and sick on the weekends I tend to make my comfort food: Any type of potato. Fried, baked, crisped.. anything. I love the taste, and I love the toppings I can put on top of them. All of which are TERRIBLE for both illnesses that I have. When you eat potatoes, carbohydrates increase insulin and lower your blood sugar. Carbohydrates with a “high glycemic load” breakdown into a tremendous amount of sugar within your body and should be avoided as they make fibromyalgia symptoms worse. I have also opted to stop eating meats, and plan to eventually eliminate most of the dairy that I consume. I don’t have an issue with breads, and other glutenous foods, as I have celiac, and cannot consume them regardless. The pain and discomfort I get from celiac is almost completely unbearable at times. This may be exacerbated by the fibro and/or arthritis. Needless to say, food is beginning to become my enemy.
Yet here I am, day in and day out needing to consume large amounts of caffeine both for energy and for comfort. The smell and feel of coffee settles any nerves I may have, emotionally puts me at ease, which increases my energy levels in general. Add the caffeine to that mix, and you have a very happy woman during the day. I am obviously very aware of the side effects, however lets take another look into my dilemma.
No caffeine: Extra fatigue, anxiety, discomfort, and general frustrations because of all of the above.
Caffeine: Relieved fatigue, relieved anxiety, emotional comfort, and relief of all systematic/emotional symptoms listed above.
However, by about 6 pm when I am winding down for the day, and it has been hours since my last consumption of sugars and caffeine, this is when I start to crash. Not only do all of my symptoms return, they return with a vengeance. My entire body aches (but lets clarify not NEARLY as bad as it did before the gabapentin), my fatigue returns, my joints ache to the point where I must rest my body in order to stay mentally functional. Basically, everything goes back downhill. This is obviously a problem, as that is the time I am now home with my family and they require me to be as attentive as possible. Should I have not consumed said sugars and caffeine, I would have not been able to fully function at work, and would still be fatigued and anxious when I got home. Perhaps even worse than I am when I crash, due to the emotionally and physical strain put on my body due to avoiding my energizing, comfort foods and drinks. Catch 22 if I ever heard of one. The fact that I have taken the time to research my situation, trying to find ways to avoid pain and treat myself as much as I can as well has brought me to the conclusion to do the following:
1. Avoid Potatoes. This has already been said, but it is the very first step in my fight to regain my life. I must avoid as many complex carbs as I can, avoiding the side effects previously listing. Believe it or not, this is actually very hard for me to do. Not only are potatoes delicious and comforting, they are cheap. As a single mom, this is a huge asset to keeping my grocery budget low. I am not sure I will even be feeding my kids potatoes, or even purchasing them again. I have half a bag in my pantry. I am avoiding temptation.
2. Eliminate red meats, and eventually all meats in general: This needs to be done for the same reasons potatoes needs to be eliminated from my diet as well. They have the same effect on the body, and cause the same problems. Though red meats can be very healthy, for someone with neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain, the benefits do NOT outweigh negatives.
3. Limit Candies/Sugars: Anyone who is trying to be healthy should be doing this regardless. We all know that the sugars, fats, and other damaging elements of candy is overall bad for you. As much as I would like to convince myself that a Snickers is good for me, it is not. Nor are Skittles or M&Ms. I wish this weren’t true.
4. Eliminate dairy: Dairy is a major protein, and many people that have fibromyalgia have a leaky gut. This means instead of having gaps between your cells and your intestines that look like this: mmmmmmm — the cells look like this: m n m n m n m. Casein is a major protein, and you can develop a food reaction to it – an allergy, if you will. When you eat casein, it inflames your body, it fires up your immune system, and all heck breaks loose. Especially when your immune system loves to attack your body. This means dairy is overall bad for me. Across the board.
So why is dairy last on my list? Because I am most addicted to dairy. I eat dairy every day, and I am going to have a very hard time stopping. I love the taste of milk. Yogurt. Sour cream. It is all very delicious, however my functionality and ability to be a good parent and employee needs to take presidence over any of my random addictions. After all of these steps are taken, I am sure that I am going to live a much more productive and meaningful life. I am just not sure how long it is going to take me to complete my short, yet complicated list. You may ask why coffee is not on this list, and it is simply because I am not ready to give up that addiction, and I am hoping the elimination of all other comfort foods that are bad for me will allow me to continue to have one guilty pleasure. Of which I am going to consume at this time. Because I love it.
In obvious conclusion, my current self comfort is part of what is causing my illness to still affect me. There are many things that I currently do (and think) that continue to hurt me, and cause self damaging issues. I am SO good at causing damage to myself, and those around me. The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Here is my admittance.