Antidepressants and Other Conservative Approaches to Treating Back and Neck Pain

When patients seek help from our lumbar and cervical specialty practice in New Jersey, they frequently tell us that they’d prefer to avoid surgery, and we tend to agree. Though there are some situations where a surgical approach is immediately indicated, in most cases we opt for a conservative approach before considering even minimally invasive surgery. Patients know what to expect from these conservative options: massage, physical therapy, injections, and anti-inflammatory drugs, but many are surprised when we prescribe antidepressants.

The truth is that numerous studies have shown that antidepressant therapy can play a valuable role in a multidisciplinary approach to back pain. There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from reducing anxiety and irritability to helping resolve sleep issues that arise with chronic pain. Most importantly, studies have shown that antidepressants can provide short-term relief from back and neck pain itself.

It is well known that anti-depressant medications alleviate muscle tension and address the issues that lead to insomnia. At low doses they also work within the central nervous system to minimize pain signals. Though physicians are not at all sure as to exactly why antidepressants provide this particular relief, many theorize that it is less about the actual pain than about the patient’s experience or attitude towards the pain that they’re feeling. Once the mental outlook is lifted and the stress and depression are alleviated, the pain doesn’t seem as bad.

Unfortunately, when it comes to back pain, studies have shown that the greatest impact from these medications comes at the three-month mark and become less pronounced three months later. As a result, they have come to be viewed as helpful during initial treatment rather than as a long-term solution.

Because stress plays such a significant role in back pain patients’ lives, patients can benefit as much from physical adjustments that address stress as emotional . In addition to analyzing emotional contributors, our lumbar spine specialists may make suggestions for changes in your physical environment, including a close analysis of everything from the way that you carry your briefcase or handbag to the way that you have your workspace set up. Many patients have found benefit from standing desks rather than the traditional seated set up, while others have found relief from adjusting the way that they interact with their electronic devices.

Though conservative approaches may provide relief, there are many instances where our lumbar spine specialist determines that your best outcome will come via surgery. At our practice, we offer a wide range of services, including minimally invasive lumbar discectomy, cervical disc replacement, and laser spine surgery.

To learn how best we can help you, start by making an appointment to come in for a consultation with our specialists. We will perform a thorough examination designed to help us understand your pain and your priorities, and work together with you to provide you with the best possible outcome.

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