BlogCan Anti-Depressants Help With Back Pain? |

Though it may not seem entirely intuitive, anti-depressants are often used to treat back pain. Many studies have found benefits of using these pills, though why exactly they help relieve pain isn’t entirely understood. Most health professionals believe that taking anti-depressants can block the reuptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, which are hormones that influence mood and concentration.

Others, however, note that taking these may help treat the depression commonly seen in those with chronic back pain, thus leading to pain relieving benefits. As noted in an earlier post, people with chronic back pain are four times more likely to suffer from clinical depression than the general public. Likewise, 75% of people with depression suffer from pain.

There is clearly a link between chronic pain and depression that may explain why anti-depressants can help treat and manage pain. 

The category of anti-depressants that are most often prescribed for back pain are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SSRIs include:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)

SNRIs include:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • Pristiq (descenlafaxine)

Another class of anti-depressants, tricyclic anti-depressants such as Adapin, are also often used for the treatment and management of chronic pain.

Before choosing any option for pain management, however, talk to your pain specialist. 

Anti-depressants can have some side effects, especially drowsiness. Therefore, it is important that people in certain professions, such as truck drivers, avoid their use. Additionally, your doctor can help you find the correct dosage levels in order to reduce the chance of side effects. Often beginning them slowly on a low dose will help. People taking anti-depressants for pain management also generally take a lower dose than those who are taking them for depression.

Do you use anti-depressants to help manage your pain? 

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