Do Antidepressants Help Treat Chronic Pain?


Doctors have occasionally used antidepressants to treat painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. However, not all types are effective treatment measures. This article examines whether antidepressants are a good solution for your chronic pain or not.

Are Antidepressants Effective for Treating Chronic Pain?

To get an answer, researchers conducted a study which examined 26 systematic reviews and collected data from 156 clinical trials involving over 25,000 participants who had been prescribed an antidepressant or placebo for chronic pain treatment. They also used a pain scale from 0 to 100 to understand how well eight depressants could work for various chronic conditions, including back pain, migraine, and fibromyalgia.

By the end of the study, scientists couldn’t find a case where they were very confident in using a particular kind of depressant to relieve chronic pain for a particular condition. There were only four cases where they could say with “moderate confidence” that a particular antidepressant could relieve a given type of chronic pain. 

SNRI Antidepressants show the best results for successful chronic pain treatment

In the previously mentioned study, all four scenarios where scientists concluded with “moderate confidence” that antidepressants worked for chronic pain treatment involved drugs belonging to a cluster of medicines known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

These medications ease depression by boosting levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Serotonin helps regulate your mood, while norepinephrine helps improve your attention and energy.

Scientists also found “low confidence” results for two other types of antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants may relieve pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome, chronic tension headaches, and neuropathic pain. On the other hand, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs) may reduce your chronic pain associated with depression.

Treating chronic pain can be challenging.

Scientific research suggests that antidepressants are routinely prescribed for chronic pain, and patients are more likely to take these drugs for this purpose than for health benefits. A study of prescription records in the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and the United States discovered that chronic pain was the most common reason doctors prescribed antidepressants, accounting for 68% of cases. 

In the United States, SSRIs were the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for chronic pain. This is partially due to other prescription pain -medicines being imperfect or having limited effectiveness and dangerous side effects. For instance, opioids can be effective, but you can also get addicted. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen can ease the pain, but you’re at risk of kidney problems and heart attacks and strokes,


Antidepressants have proven to be effective in treating chronic pain to some extent. Before you start treatment, it’s best to consult your doctor to know if you have any pre-existing conditions that the medications could affect.