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Do antidepressants actually help back pain?

Patients who are suffering chronic pain will seek out any possible treatments that could allow them to lead some semblance of their normal lives. This is true despite a lack of efficacy of the treatments and/or drugs.

For many suffering from osteoarthritis and back pain, their pain journeys lead them to be prescribed antidepressants. Both tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) are routinely prescribed for both types of chronic pain.

How useful are these strong drugs?

According to recent findings published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), not so much. The lead researcher from the University of Sydney concluded with moderate certainty that while there was a minimal benefit to be gained by osteoarthritis sufferers, the benefits to back pain patients were too slight to be relevant to warrant the continued use of these drugs in most patients.

Researchers analyzed data compiled from more than 30 controlled and randomized trials with over 5,000 adults with diagnoses of sciatica, lumbar and cervical pain and knee and hip osteoarthritis.

Only marginal pain point scale improvement resulted

The medical researchers determined that on a pain scale from zero to 100, the minimal worthwhile adjustment would be 10 points — the common threshold for chronic pain studies.

After trials of 90 days, the back pain participants who partook of the SNRIs had a 5.3 improvement on the pain scale, an insignificant clinical finding. Osteoarthritis sufferers nearly scored 10 points (9.7), so a worthwhile improvement was indeed possible in some patients.

Those patients in the trials who took the TCAs experienced no appreciable improvement in their pain levels.

Treatment for back pain can prove elusive

Finding a treatment for chronic back pain can be a challenge. Meanwhile, the patient suffers greatly from the reduced quality of life and could barely be able to function.

If you find yourself dealing with intractable back pain, you might need to file for disability benefits to make life easier for you.