Home > Health Library > Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) for Chronic Pain
SNRIs work to increase the activity of
brain chemicals called serotonin and norepinephrine. Doctors do not know
exactly how this improves
chronic pain symptoms.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are used to treat certain types of chronic pain, especially nerve pain. They may be used to treat:
SNRIs can help some people who have chronic pain. They seem to work best for people who have chronic nerve pain and people who also have symptoms of depression.1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Desvenlafaxine and venlafaxine
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of these medicines include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Never suddenly stop taking SNRIs. The use of any antidepressant should be tapered off slowly and only under the supervision of a doctor. Abruptly stopping antidepressant medicines can cause negative side effects or a relapse of your condition.
SNRIs are started at low doses, and the dose is increased gradually to reduce the severity of side effects. You may need regular blood tests to check the amount of the medicine in your blood. Too much of this type of medicine in the bloodstream can be dangerous.
Be sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines you are currently taking. Duloxetine and milnacipran can interact poorly with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (taken for depression and other mental health conditions). Examples of MAO inhibitors include phenelzine, selegiline, and tranylcypromine.
Duloxetine can affect blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes. If you notice that the results of your blood sugar tests are different than you expect, or if you have any questions, talk with your doctor.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Drugs for pain (2010). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 8(92): 25–34.
January 9, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
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