Does Cymbalta Help with Pain?

By Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
February 28, 2022

If you are experiencing with depression or anxiety, your healthcare provider may prescribe you Cymbalta, which is the brand-name of the prescription medication duloxetine.

This medication is primarily classified as an antidepressant, used to treat depression and anxiety but it can also be prescribed for nerve pain.

It has been studied for its success at improving the symptoms of a range of other medical conditions that can cause nerve pain. This includes fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal conditions, arthritis, and chronic low back pain

While Cymbalta cannot cure the underlying causes of these conditions, it can be used as an effective tool of pain management in addition to other treatments.

How does Cymbalta Work?

Cymbalta is used to treat major depressive disorder in adults and generalized anxiety disorder in adults and children above the age of seven years old.

This medication is in a class of drugs known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). 

This medication works by increasing the amounts of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are natural substances in the brain.

Taking Cymbalta can improve your mood, sleep, and energy level as well as decrease nervousness and anxiety.

These two chemicals are also believed to help nerve cells communicate with one another and Cymbalta, along with other antidepressants, may affect how a person’s brain processes pain.

Have questions about a Cymbalta prescription? Chat with a doctor today.
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Can Cymbalta be Used for Pain?

As well as treating depression and anxiety, Cymbalta can be prescribed for nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy) in people with diabetes.

Your healthcare provider may also prescribe Cymbalta if you experience ongoing pain due to the following conditions:

Fibromyalgia

If you are tired, moody, achy, and having trouble sleeping, you may be one of 5 million Americans suffering from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic life-long illness that can cause muscle pain and tenderness all over the body as well as issues with sleep and memory. 

While fibromyalgia is not understood in great detail, many believe that the pain is caused by changes in the nervous system that may trigger painful signals along the pain pathways.

There are various medications available to help manage your symptoms, and Cymbalta is one of them.

It can assist in reducing the intensity of these pain signals. 

Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal pain includes pain in the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

Cymbalta has been approved to help patients with these symptoms. 

If you have chronic musculoskeletal pain, your healthcare provider may prescribe Cymbalta to help with pain management.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective tissue at the end of the bones, wears down.

It begins gradually and worsens over time, which causes joint pain and stiffness.

Cymbalta cannot treat osteoarthritis directly, but it can reduce the sensation of pain.

Chronic Low Back Pain

According to the Center of Disease Control, a study found that low back pain is the most common type of pain reported in the United States, with 25% of adults having reported it in the prior three months.

If you have ongoing low back pain, this is considered chronic.

For sufferers of chronic low back pain, studies have shown that a once-a-day dose of Cymbalta has been reported to offer a reduction in pain.    

Other Uses for Cymbalta

Cymbalta is the first and only Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medication for pain caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Approximately 70% of those diagnosed with diabetes will develop peripheral neuropathy which is pain and/or numbness in the outer areas of the body, such as the feet, caused by damage to the nerves.  

When to Take Cymbalta

Cymbalta is a prescription only medication and should be taken as directed by your healthcare provider.

The medication comes in 30 or 60 mg capsules.

Your healthcare provider will likely start your treatment plan at 30mg daily but this varies from person to person. 

Cymbalta Drug Interactions

Before taking Cymbalta, you should discuss with your healthcare provider all medications you are currently taking including over the counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. 

Cymbalta negatively interacts with some medications which can change how your medications work or put you at a greater risk of experiencing side effects. These medications include:

  • MAO inhibitors: If you are currently taking or have taken a medication in this category in the past, contact your healthcare provider before starting Cymbalta.  Medications in the MAO inhibitors drug class can cause a serious, fatal drug interaction if combined with Cymbalta
  • Any other medications for a mental health condition: Be sure to report any other prescribed medications for mental health conditions including antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications, particularly tricyclic antidepressants.  Other medications to report include antipsychotic medications and medications used to treat bipolar disorder.
  • NSAIDs: This includes anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen.  Aspirin should also be avoided Using these medications can increase the chance of bleeding.
  • Cimetidine: Also known as Tagamet, this antacid can increase Cymbalta’s medication level.
  • Quinolone antibiotics: Avoid antibiotics in this medication class while taking Cymbalta.  An example of an antibiotic in this category is Cipro
  • Antiarrhythmic drugs: Any medication that is prescribed for a heart condition such as abnormal heart rhythms should be discussed.
  • Any drugs that make you sleepy: These include sleeping pills, sedatives, cold and allergy medicine, and narcotic pain relievers. 

In addition to drug interactions, you should not drink alcohol while taking Cymbalta.

Side Effects of Cymbalta

When taking Cymbalta, you may experience adverse effects while your body adjusts to the medication.

The following side effects usually do not require medical attention as they tend to go away.

The most common side effect of Cymbalta is nausea.

Other common side effects include:

If any of the following red flag symptoms develop, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately:

When you start taking the medication or increase your dose, you may develop dizziness or lightheadedness.

Avoid getting up quickly from a seated or lying position.

This will reduce the risk of dizziness, lightheadedness, or falls.

Many who are prescribed this medication do not experience any of the potential side effects but be sure to consult with your health care provider immediately if you experience any concerning symptoms or if you have any questions regarding Cymbalta.

Have questions about a Cymbalta prescription? Chat with a doctor today.
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When to See a Doctor 

You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the red flag symptoms.

If any of your symptoms persist or worsen, you should consult with your healthcare provider to determine if Cymbalta is the best medication for you.

If you’re having a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also get free 24/7 support from a suicide and crisis expert by calling or texting 988. If you’d prefer to chat online, you can chat with a suicide and crisis expert by visiting the Lifeline Chat.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can have a primary care doctor online?

Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes through K Health. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly does Cymbalta work on pain?
The medication does not work instantly. You may see an improvement after a few weeks of taking Cymbalta for nerve pain. It’s important that you continue the medication even if you feel the medication is not working. Talk to your healthcare provider before stopping the medication.
How effective is Cymbalta for pain?
Clinical trials have found that Cymbalta can significantly improve pain for those suffering from fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal pain, and chronic lower back pain. It can also be effective for treating peripheral neuropathy in patients with diabetes.
Can Cymbalta help back pain?
Yes, clinical studies have found that a once-a-day dose of Cymbalta can help with chronic lower back pain and neuropathies associated with low back pain.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC

Nena Luster is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 14 years of experience including emergency medicine, urgent care, and family practice. 

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