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Pain Res Manag. 2016;2016:2020915. doi: 10.1155/2016/2020915. Epub 2016 Jul 3.

Treating Chronic Pain with SSRIs: What Do We Know?

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Copenhagen University, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Anesthesia, Center of Head and Orthopedics, Copenhagen University Hospital, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark.


Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter that plays a major role in both nociception and mood regulation. Alterations in the 5-hydroxytryptophan (5HT) system have been reported in chronic pain patients. In recent years, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) have been suggested as an alternative treatment for chronic pain due to the fact that they are better tolerated presenting less secondary effects than other antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants. Although several clinical trials have been published, the effectiveness of SSRI as treatment for pain conditions is inconclusive. This review aims to summarise what is known, regarding the effectiveness of SSRI as a treatment for chronic pain conditions in adults. A total of 36 studies involving a total of 1898 participants were included in this review. Of the 36 trials included in the review, 2 used zimelidine as treatment, 3 used escitalopram, 4 used fluvoxamine, 4 used sertraline, 6 used citalopram, 8 used paroxetine, 9 used fluoxetine, and one used both citalopram and paroxetine. Because the trials included in this review are quite heterogeneous, only qualitative analyses were performed. SSRI seems to have an effect on most of chronic pain conditions; however, further clinical trials with good methodology leading to low risk of bias are needed in order to conclude once and for all the effect of this drug class as treatment for chronic pain conditions.

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