Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Antidepressants not great for back pain, arthritis

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Antidepressants are widely believed to be somewhat useful in treating chronic pain. A new BMJ meta-analysis of 33 RCTs reports that antidepressants are linked to only trivial improvements in back pain, and barely-there benefits for knee arthritis.

As Journal Watch put it, antidepressants “don’t show major effects” on pain. But seriously, when’s the last time you heard about research confirming a “major” effect on any kind of chronic pain? That barely exists! Because reasons! (Roughly: pain is aggressively multifactorial and weird, a primal feature of biology that is crazy hard to reliably suppress.)

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