Cymbalta May Reduce Chronic Low Back Pain

Drug's Pain-relieving Properties Extend Beyond Depression

Good news for patients with chronic pain—a study found that a once-daily dose of Cymbalta significantly reduced chronic low back pain, compared to a placebo.
Doctor paying a house call on patient showing her some information on a clipboardThe patients in the Cymbalta group reported a significant reduction in their pain, compared to the placebo group.The findings, which were presented at the American Academy of Pain Medicine's Annual Meeting in February 2010, were based on results from the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI). The BPI is a scientific tool used to rate a patient's degree of pain.

In this experiment, researchers studied 401 patients with chronic low back pain. Over the course of 3 months, one group of patients received a 60-mg dose of Cymbalta, while the other group received a placebo.

The patients in the Cymbalta group reported a significant reduction in their pain, compared to the placebo group.

However, the researchers also noted that Cymbalta's negative side effects caused 30 of the 198 patients in the Cymbalta group to drop out of the study. These common side effects include nausea, headache, and dizziness. Eleven out of the 203 patients from the placebo group also dropped out after reporting adverse reactions to their treatment.

What Exactly Is Chronic Pain—and How Can Cymbalta Help?
Chronic pain is pain that sticks around for an extended period of time—at least 6 months by definition. It can have a specific cause (spinal stenosis can trigger it, for example), but more often than not, the cause is unknown.

The fact that chronic back pain lasts so long, combined with the lack of knowledge of what's causing it, can make it extremely difficult to endure. That's why many people with chronic pain also experience mental and emotional disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Treating the emotional side of pain is one way Cymbalta helps people with chronic pain. Cymbalta belongs to a class of anti-depressants known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs boost serotonin and norepinephrine levels by stopping their reuptake (re-absorption) into brain cells.

Serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters—you can think of them as the brain's mood messengers. By allowing them to travel to and from neurons in the brain, they help maintain emotional balance.

It's quite clear how Cymbalta treats the emotional side of pain, but its effects on physical pain are less understood. Scientists aren't exactly sure how it works, but they believe that increased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain may reduce physical pain perception. More research, however, needs to be conducted to confirm how this mechanism occurs.

Updated on: 09/04/18
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What is Chronic Pain?
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What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is hard to define because it affects people so differently and can come in so many forms.
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