Can Cymbalta Help Nerve Damage in the Spine?

  • Medical Author:
    Standiford Helm II, MD

    Dr. Helm has been practicing interventional pain management since 1982. Dr. Helm is a diplomate of the American Board of Anesthesiology with subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine and of the American Board of Pain Medicine. Dr. Helm is a Fellow of Interventional Pain Practice (FIPP), the only certifying agency which tests the ability to perform interventional pain procedures. Dr. Helm is also an examiner for FIPP.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

Would Cymbalta help with nerve damage in the cervical part of the spine?

Doctor's response

Cymbalta (duloxetine) is approved for the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which is a form of neuropathic pain. It acts by preventing the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are both neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.

In neuropathic pain, the nervous system itself is the source of pain. One of the things that the nervous system does is to filter out information being sent to it, so that only important information is sent on to the brain. One way that this happens is by having more of the neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine present in the spinal cord and brainstem. It seems reasonable to conclude that if increasing the neurotransmitters helps for one type of neuropathic pain, then it might also help with other types of neuropathic pain, such as might occur after nerve damage in the cervical spine. While this use of Cymbalta is off-label (meaning that it has not been FDA approved for this indication), most pain physicians would be very willing to try a safe drug like Cymbalta to see if it worked.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


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Reviewed on 7/25/2017