Researchers from a group of top UK universities have conducted a study into the effectiveness of gabapentin in treating chronic pelvic pain. But they have found it to be no more effective than the placebo used in the control group.
Gabapentin is routinely used to treat pelvic pain, with 74% of GPs and 92% of gynaecologists saying that they would consider prescribing the drug for this purpose, according to one survey.
However, after publishing the results of the study, the researchers have recommended against prescribing gabapentin for pelvic pain.
How did the study work?
Researchers conducted a randomised clinical trial, involving 306 women who suffered from chronic pelvic pain with no known underlying cause.
Of those 306 women, 153 were given gabapentin to take for 16 weeks, while 153 were given a placebo. They were then asked to rate their pain on a weekly basis, using a scale of zero to ten.
Neither the women, nor the doctors prescribing the drugs, knew which drug they had been given.
At the end of the trial, researchers discovered that there was very little difference in reported pain levels between the two groups.
The group taking gabapentin did, however, report more side effects, including dizziness and mood swings, than the control group. This led the researchers to recommend against its use for this purpose.
What is chronic pelvic pain?
There are many reasons why women experience ongoing pelvic pain, with two of the most common being irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and endometriosis. In some women, however, the underlying cause of the pain is never found.
If you are suffering from pelvic pain, it is important to see your GP and ask them to refer you to a specialist, to rule out any underlying condition.
But if endometriosis is the cause, it can be difficult to diagnose and is often overlooked. It is not unusual for a woman to suffer with the symptoms for up to ten years before receiving her diagnosis. So if you suspect you might have it, do try to be explicit with your doctor.
How can chronic pelvic pain be treated if gabapentin doesn’t work?
The most important first step in any pelvic pain treatment is to identify an underlying condition, if there is one, and treat that.
In around 24% of women worldwide, however, a cause for their pelvic pain is never found. These are the women who until now were prescribed gabapentin.
Professor Andrew Horne, lead researcher from the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, said:
“We have been prescribing this drug for many years with little evidence of its effectiveness.
“As a result of our study, we can confidently conclude that gabapentin is not effective for chronic pelvic pain in women where no cause has been identified.
“More research is needed to explore if other therapies can help instead.”
Some possible treatment options suggested by the researchers included alternative drugs, as well as physiotherapy or even cognitive behavioural therapy. Some physicians believe there may be a psychological reason behind the pain.
If you are experiencing pelvic pain and would like to speak to a specialist in confidence, please call us on 07835 736627.