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How Do Antidepressants Help Treat Pain? NSPC’s Dr. Abe Cherrick Weighs In

  • Category: Doctor Q&A
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Abraham A. Cherrick, M.D.

The Doctor QA section of the Treating Pain Blog is designed to help answer questions we frequently receive from our patients who struggle with pain. The pain management physicians at National Spine & Pain Centers and our affiliates have many combined years of experience and are a wealth of knowledge. In this week’s featured Doctor QA, we are addressing our patients’ concerns about how pain can be treated using antidepressant medication.

Our very own Dr. Abe Cherrick who sees patients in Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia has the answer:

Question: How do antidepressants help treat pain?

Answer:


When human beings experience pain, of any kind, it’s because our central nervous system, specifically our brain, receives stimuli that we interpret as pain. As the first line of defense, our brain responds by sending signals back to the spinal cord to help diminish the amount of pain stimuli it will receive. This feedback loop is called “pain inhibition” and requires a sufficient amount of the body’s innate neurochemicals, such as serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine, to work properly. Dr. Abe Cherrick

Unfortunately in chronic pain situations (pain lasting longer than three months), the body is unable to manufacture an ample supply of these chemical mediators. Antidepressant medications work by increasing the levels of these important neurochemicals, so the body’s inhibitory pain pathways can work properly.

By helping to replace or enhance depleted supplies of theses mediators we experience less pain. This benefit, however, is not linked to the effect antidepressants play in improving mood or depression.