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Pain. 2010 Apr;149(1):117-23. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.01.016. Epub 2010 Feb 20.

Low-dose amitriptyline for treatment of persistent arm pain due to repetitive use.

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  • 1Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. rgoldman@challiance.org


Amitriptyline is sometimes used to treat arm pain related to repetitive use, but rigorous evidence of its benefit is lacking. This randomized controlled trial investigated whether amitriptyline provided greater pain relief or improved arm function than a placebo pill in adults with arm pain associated with repetitive use that had persisted for at least 3 months. Participants (N=118) were randomly assigned to receive 25mg of amitriptyline or a placebo pill for 6 weeks. The primary outcome was intensity of pain (10-point numerical rating scale) and secondary outcomes were arm symptoms, arm function, grip strength, mood, and sleep. Assessments were done at baseline, 3 and 6 weeks of treatment, and 1 month after the treatment ended. Changes in arm pain were not statistically significant. However, the amitriptyline group improved more than the placebo group in arm function (p=0.023) and sense of well being (p=0.034). In a longitudinal analysis, the amitriptyline group's arm function score improved 0.45 points per week faster than placebo after adjusting for subject characteristics (p=0.015). At the treatment's midpoint, the amitriptyline group reported more "troublesome side-effects" than the placebo group (52.5% vs. 27.1%, p=0.005), but this difference decreased by the end of the treatment (30.5% vs. 22.0%, p=0.30). The most frequent side effect was drowsiness. In conclusion, this study found that low-dose amitriptyline did not significantly decrease arm pain among these participants but did significantly improve arm function and well being. Future research is needed to explore the effects of higher doses and longer duration of treatment.

Copyright 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain. All rights reserved.

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