Anticonvulsant Medications for Chronic Pain


What are anticonvulsants?

Anticonvulsants are prescription medicines that calm brain hyperactivity and treat seizure disorders. They have also been known to reduce chronic pain. Anticonvulsants relieve pain by interfering with damaged or overly sensitive nerve signals. They reduce or control abnormal increases in brain electrical activity.

Anticonvulsants are used to alter or control excitability of neurons. Anticonvulsant medicine may relieve chronic pain for some people, but not for others. They have nerve-calming qualities that can help soothe burning, stabbing or shooting pain resulting from nerve damage.

Anticonvulsants that treat pain

Common anticonvulsants used for chronic pain treatment include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Carbamazepine
  • Gabapentin
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Phenytoin
  • Pregabalin
  • Topiramate
  • Valproic acid

Side effects

When prescribed for chronic pain control, anticonvulsants dosage is typically low enough to avoid side effects. If needed, the dosage is usually increased gradually. Consult with a health care profession if side effects occur. Potential side effects of anticonvulsants include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and belly pain
  • Uncontrollable eye movements (nystagmus)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Gum disease (gingivitis)
  • Itching, fever, and a rash that looks like measles (sensitivity reaction)
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Swelling of the face or lips
  • Liver damage
  • Double vision
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts


Anticonvulsants may not be safe for everyone. To avoid side effects, speak to a health care professional about existing medical conditions and other current medications being taken. Speak with a medical professional or counselor immediately if depression or suicidal thoughts occur.

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