Antidepressants do not Ease Lower Back Pain – Some Alternatives

Nearly one in four primary care doctors prescribes antidepressants as a treatment for low back pain. But a new report shows there’s no evidence the drugs offer any relief.

The finding comes from a review by the Cochrane Collaboration, a not-for-profit group that evaluates medical research. The use of depression pills to treat back pain has been controversial.

Here are comments and advise by professionals and patients:

“Back pain sufferers please read Dr. John Sarno- his books are my bibles. After suffering excruciating pain I able to heal myself- no drugs or medial procedures.”

“I was on amitrypteline intermittently for chronic back pain (between 10 and 50 mg), then switched to nortrypteline in an effort to minimize the side effects of weight gain and constipation. Both of these drugs were originally intended to treat depression. Both gave me some initial weeks of relief and then faded to have no effect whatsoever. Being in pain constantly can lead to depression, as it did with me. The side effects of these drugs were a challenge and my pain-related depression was not alleviated.

After weaning off the pharmaceuticals I discovered the magic of fish oil – 3000 mg a day has drastically reduced my pain, evened out mood in a very subtle way, improved my good cholesterol and as an unintended, but welcome consequence, improved my skin. FISH OIL!! This is all part of my effort to adhere to an “anti-inflammatory” diet. Healing through nutrition is the best solution I’ve found in nearly three years of roller-coaster pain management, and dozens of modalities of intervention.”

“As a mental health professional I find it distressing and ethically questionable that family practice/primary care physicians are prescribing antidepressants inappropriately. Many patients do not receive adequate monitoring of their use, and oft times when one antidepressant proves to be ineffective, the patient is switched to another without close monitoring…”

“I was prescribed at least five different antidepressants for herniated discs, which did not work…But nothing, so far, has been as helpful as a physical therapist.”

“I’m officially diagnosed with chronic pain due to lumbar failure; 4 surgeries, fusion, spinal cord stimulator over a 14-year period. I’ve been on a slew of antidepressants and I can attest they did not do anything for the pain.”

“There is alot of public awareness these days on the dangers of antidepressants. It may be the side effects (some irreversible)the addicitions, the fact that they may cause angry and crazy behaviors and suicide and many are not even FDA approved. Could the suggestion that they could have helped with pain relief is maybe another way of keeping them prescribed since I am hoping most people are taking a second look at these dangerous drugs and learning how to “JUST SAY NO!” as we were taught to do with the illegal ones , you know the drugs from the streets, not your Dr’s office (the legal ones). Drugs are drugs.”

“An appropriate emotional response to a back problem indicates a healthy mind, not a pathological one. So why would they want to attempt to treat a healthy response? Are the physicians confusing an emotional response to feeling bad with feeling bad?”

“Unbelievable!!!!Prescribing anti-depressants for back pain is but one more glaring example of the rampant epidemic of inappropriate ‘legalized’ drug abuse in this country.”

Stories like this make me so sad. I have nothing but compassion for sufferers of pain and depression, mostly because I know that the drug dealers we call doctors will only reach for the prescription pad when it comes to addressing their issues. Several years ago I went through all this nonsense during a very bad bout of depression. I was diagnosed as bipolar (I’m not.) and then the so-called experts threw up their hands because I didn’t respond well to any of the drugs. In the end I decided to take control of my own health. I reduced the stress in my life, I cut out most caffeine, stopped eating junk food, lost weight, got a job I didn’t hate–gradually the depression lifted. As for my chronic lower back pain–yoga made it disappear. It took several years, but I know that I would have found no answers from what I call the disease-management industry. Of course everyone’s situation is different, but some times the answer is right there in your hands.”

Most prescription drugs according to valid scientific studies seem to do little or nothing exceptional for patients when the so-called “gold standard” is used, Except for generating profits most prescription drugs are casual in more deaths and harm than many of the disease listed leading causes of death. So this finding is no surprise to anyone who follows the latest reports about prescription drugs including the statins, psychotropics, the “off-label” and the placebo prescribing patterns of physicians.”

“have been told for years by varoius doctors that anti-depressents would help my back pain. I have severe scoliosis and a disk that is almost gone at L5-S1 and a host of other back problems ,probably all related to scoliosis and 30 years of constuction work. About three years ago I went to a pain clinic and was sent for an MRI. Wow was all I could say when I looked at the train wreck that was supposed to be my spine. It was no wonder I was in so much pain. I had a herniated disk two fused, two bulging disks and arthritis in the spine not to mention the rest of the fun things that go along with scoliosis. I saw the Doctor for appx six months when Cymbalta hit the market. Next thing you know My Doc wants me to try it as she says it will help with the pain. Well to make a long story short all the Cymbalta did was to send me into deep dive. If you read the fine print, the information sheet that comes attached to the Rx it says that some people do not respond to treatment at all. I think the number was something like 1 in 1000. Well I am that one. Not only did the drug do nothing for my back pain but I became so depressed that for 4 of the 6 weeks I took the drug I hardly did the dishes, didn’t play with my dog and was miserable. But, I thought as my Dr. had said the bad side effects would be worth the relief I would gain. Wrong. The drug did nothing for my pain and almost killed me. I am the one in a thousand that anti-depressents do not work for. Over the years I have tried about all of them as the Drs always said I was depressed, well no doubt. I am in constant pain, It does not take a Doctor to think that maybe depression and chronic pain go hand in hand. The problem lies when Dr.s refuse to listen to the patient. I told my Dr. that anti-depressents do not work for me. but, she almost forced me to take it. I was afraid she would discharge me for arguing with her. So I tried this new drug for 6 weeks after week 2 I started feeling worse than I did before but I continued thinking maybe things would turn, around-they didn’t. I could go on forever about how bad I felt. What finally did help my depression was the the American Pain Foundation and their discussion boards and chats for those who suffer from chronic pain. There I can talk to others about pain w/o feeling like I am talking to a rock. My freinds didn’t want to hear me, my family didn’t either. But finally I found a group of people who listened and cared about how I felt. Talking helps but you need someone to listen…”

“Antidepressants seem to have become the default drug for everything. A relatively recent NYT article talked about how they are now the standard treatment for menopausal hot flashes — something that isn’t even a disease. They are also used for all kinds of chronic pain, urinary incontinence, IBS, and of course every form of emotional distress ranging from normal and temporary to true mental illness…”

“Americans are ten times more likely to have back pain than people from traditional societies around the world. In Chad, the incidence of back pain is only five percent, while in the United States, 85 percent of the population will suffer from back pain in their lifetime. Doctors and experts from industrialized societies blame everything from our sedentary lives, age and stress, to bodies that are not evolved to stand upright. After a lifetime of research in anatomy and alternative medicine, as well as anthropological study in parts of the world where back pain is rare, pain specialist and author Esther Gokhale L.Ac. has found that the answer is much more basic.

In many cultures, people still have knowledge of natural posture and movement that prevents pain and enhances health. Both manual laborers and sedentary workers have not forgotten how to sit, stand, walk and sleep in harmony with their bodies’ design. As a result, they do not suffer from back pain. What Esther Gokhale learned in remote Burkina Faso, rural Portugal, and fishing villages in Brazil has guided thousands of people in the San Francisco Bay Area away from back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other musculoskeletal ailments. Preserved in the movements of weavers, millers, and farmers in more traditional societies is ancient body wisdom that prevents pain and enhances health.

Dr. Helen Barkan of Mayo Clinic Neurology calls this new approach to back pain– the Gokhale Method SM– “The greatest contribution ever made to non-surgical back pain treatment.” Dr. John Adler, Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University Medical Clinic has said, “Every year tens of thousands of patients undergo major back surgery without any benefits. By using Esther Gokhale’s novel techniques, many of these patients can avoid such needless and expensive medical procedures, and quickly return to a pain-free life.” Stanford Biology Professor and author Paul Ehrlich, has announced that “8 STEPS TO A PAIN-FREE BACK is the best back pain book on the market. I had significant low back pain and sciatica for more than two decades before Esther Gokhale was able to help me. If I had found her earlier, it could have saved me a great deal of pain and grief.” And according to Physics Professor Andrei Linde at Stanford University, ‘The power of pills is not absolute. You can go much further using the power of knowledge. This clearly written and richly illustrated book introduces a number of unique ideas that can help you regain your freedom of motion.’

More information about the Gokhale Method– what it is, how it works, and what conditions it helps– can be found at

“As a practicing board-certified psychiatrist and integrative medical expert, I appreciate that your article emphasizes the ongoing importance of an active, informed patient/doctor dialogue. Antidepressants fail not only with back pain, but very often in depression, as well. I find that antidepressants are all too- often over-prescribed, at too high a dose, over too long a time, and often before patients have had an adequate medical evaluation. I am sorry to see the widespread lack of office visit communication. I believe in educating patients to take control of their own health and have well-informed conversations with their doctors. I cover these issues in my latest book, Supplement Your Prescription – What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition. Patients can learn how to evaluate the efficacy of their prescription meds, detect side effects due to drug-nutrient depletions, and how to introduce natural alternatives, all while in dialogue with their physician…”

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5 Responses to “Antidepressants do not Ease Lower Back Pain – Some Alternatives”

  1. Matt Says:

    While doing some research on this topic I came across a very interesting article “Calf Injuries and Magnesium Deficiency.” I would suggest reading it, as it offers some very interesting information on the correlation of poor health and magnesium deficiency. There’s another really important article about magnesium as an alternatives to Lipitor called “Magnesium and Walking Will Always be Superior to Lipitor.” Check them out if you have a chance.

  2. Your Friend Says:

    Thanks again for your comment, Matt.

    Yes, magnesium is great for muscles which are the cause of many back problems. There’s a great free online book atout the Magnesium at

    Your Friend

  3. low back pain Says:

    Back pain Remedies are required as back pain is quite a common phenomenon and generally occurs due to wrong posture or sudden movements. Each one of us is prone to back pain since the lower portion of our back supports a large portion of our body weight.

  4. Your Friend Says:

    Yes. We all have a good load to carry around with us. Correct posture is the key. For those who have back pain due to tension, exercise is great, if they do it on a gradient and not due too much as to injure themselves further. I find that physical therapists give us too much at once.

  5. tripplex5663 Says:

    Excellent post. I want to thank you for this informative read, I really appreciate sharing this great post. Keep up your work. Loveland CO Chiropractor Loveland CO Chiropractic

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