Did you know that antidepressants can be used to manage chronic pain? As the name suggests, antidepressants are indicated to treat depression; however, these medications are also useful in treating various types of pain including arthritis, nerve pain, tension or migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, lower back and pelvic pain. Antidepressants are useful in the management of chronic pain conditions even when depression is not a contributing factor.
The mechanism by which antidepressants treat chronic pain is not fully understood. It is generally thought that antidepressants have an effect on neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, along the spinal pain pathways. This results in a change in the way the brain perceives pain over time. It should be noted that antidepressants do not relieve pain immediately. It can take several weeks to experience pain relief from antidepressant therapy.
Antidepressants are classified based on their chemical structure and mechanism of action. The most common antidepressants used for chronic pain include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Antidepressant therapy can be helpful in managing chronic pain, but these medications are not without side effects and patient tolerability and safety should always be considered.
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