The drug gabapentin has shown some promise in helping to restore some forelimb functionality, with roughly 60% of mice with spinal injuries recovering some use of their forelimbs compared to 30% in mice that received a placebo. Gabapentin is a drug that has already been approved by the FDA, so it is already currently in use to alleviate nerve pain. This additional finding may allow for medical professionals to prescribe it to help with recovery following a spinal injury. Gabapentin targets the nerve extensions called axons. Axons grow when synapses form, and they relay messages to other parts of the body.
Following a spinal injury, the axons may reform improperly. The use of gabapentin can prevent axons from regrowing in a way that fails to properly relay messages. Improper repairs can cause additional pain and uncontrolled movements, so the drug works to stop this process. This provides time to help ensure that axons re-engage in the right way.
For more details on the potentials of gabapentin to further help spinal injury patients, read A Common Drug Could Help Restore Limb Function after Spinal Cord Injury.