Substantial progress has been made during the last decades in our understanding of acute pain mechanisms, and this knowledge has encouraged the search for novel treatments. Of particular interest has been the observation that tissue injury initiates a number of modulations of both the peripheral and the central pain pathways, which convert the system from a 'physiological' to a 'pathological' mode of processing afferent information. Gabapentin, which binds to the α2δ subunit of the voltage-dependent calcium channel, is active in animal models of 'pathological' but not in models of 'physiological' pain. Consequently, attention has so far been focused on neuropathic pain as a target for the clinical use of gabapentin and analogues. Recently, several reports have indicated that gabapentin may have a place in the treatment of post-operative pain. This article presents a brief summary of the potential mechanisms of post-operative pain, and a systematic review of the available data of gabapentin and pregabalin for post-operative analgesia. It is concluded that the results with gabapentin and pregabalin in post-operative pain treatment published so far are promising. It is suggested that future studies should explore the effects of 'protective premedication' with combinations of various antihyperalgesic and analgesic drugs for post-operative analgesia.