There is a high prevalence of chronic pain disorders in the population and the individual and societal costs are large. Antidepressants have been used in the treatment of chronic pain and the pain-relieving effects are independent of the mood-elevating properties. We reviewed randomised-controlled trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses of antidepressants in the treatment of chronic pain disorders which were identified through searches of MEDLINE and EMBASE. Antidepressants have proved to be effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia, chronic low back pain, diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia and chronic headache, in particular tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). There is emerging evidence that newer dual-action antidepressants are equally efficacious. Antidepressants provide a viable option in the management of chronic pain disorders. Further research into novel antidepressants will aid the pain clinician in optimising treatment for patients.
Pain, as defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain, is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”.1 Chronic pain is widely defined as pain that lasts longer than 3 months.2
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