Depression and painful somatic symptoms commonly occur together. Depression and chronic pain can have devastating effects on a patient's health, productivity, and overall quality of life. When moderate-to-severe pain exists, it can impair patient function while making treatment more difficult or resistant, with increased severity in depressive symptoms and worse outcomes. A variety of chronic pain syndromes exist, including diabetic neuropathy. A high prevalence of patients with chronic pain display depressive symptoms. Treatment for these conditions relies on pharmacologic therapy coupled with diligent, periodic assessments of changes in symptom severity. The link between pain and depression lies in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The brain stem serves as an important connection between the higher brain centers and the spinal cord. In the brain stem, the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine modulate pain transmission through ascending and descending neural pathways. Both serotonin and norepinephrine are also key neurotransmitters involved with the pathophysiology of depression. Tricyclic antidepressants are effective treatments for pain and depression; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors provide less benefit. Duloxetine and venlafaxine, which are serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, were shown in clinical trials to alleviate pain and depressive symptoms. Diabetic neuropathy and other chronic pain syndromes were also shown to benefit from duloxetine and venlafaxine. Antidepressants remain fundamental therapeutic agents for depression and anxiety disorders. Their extended use into chronic pain, depression with physical pain, physical pain with or without depression, and other potential medical conditions should be recognized.
- Chronic pain
- Tricyclic antidepressants