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Medically Approved

How does Cymbalta work for nerve pain?

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Cymbalta for nerve painBenefitsSide effectsHow to takeSummary
Cymbalta is an antidepressant medication that doctors prescribe for anxiety and depression. It can help manage certain types of chronic pain like neuropathy or nerve pain.
Medically reviewed by Alisha D. Sellers, BS Pharmacy, PharmD
Written by D. M. Pollock
Updated on November 14, 2023

Cymbalta is the brand name for the drug duloxetine.

Cymbalta has Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to help treat depression, anxiety disorders, and neuropathy. It is an antidepressant that belongs to the drug group called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

These drugs work by keeping serotonin and norepinephrine levels higher in your brain. SNRIs stop the cells that release these chemical messengers from reabsorbing them.

This article looks at how Cymbalta helps treat nerve pain. It also outlines the benefits and side effects of the drug and how to take it.

How can Cymbalta treat nerve pain?

Person holding a packet of the medication cymbalta, for nerve pain.
Photography by Fiordaliso/Getty Images

Nerve pain, or neuralgia, is typically due to a long-term health condition that causes damage to your nerves.

Nerve pain affects nearly 20% of people worldwide, with 60% of those affected being women.

Cymbalta is an oral capsule that you take up to twice per day. The medication is safe and effective in treating the following health conditions:

Cymbalta can also help treat chronic pain resulting from nerve damage.

Experts aren’t sure exactly how Cymbalta helps relieve pain. However, they do know that the active component of Cymbalta, duloxetine, increases the amount of certain neurotransmitters — chemical messengers — in your brain.

These neurotransmitters include:

  • serotonin
  • norepinephrine
  • dopamine

Researchers believe that increasing the amount of chemicals in your nervous system limits the amount of pain signals that reach your brain.

Benefits

Cymbalta is effective for treating neuropathic pain — particularly diabetes and fibromyalgia-related nerve pain.

Clinical studies show that pain starts to decrease as early as 1 week after taking Cymbalta.

If you take approximately 60 milligrams (mg) of Cymbalta per day for nerve pain, you can expect at least a 50% decrease in the intensity of your pain.  

Cymbalta can also boost your mood while relieving your nerve pain.

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Side effects

Cymbalta can cause mild side effects, including:

Most of these should go away within a few weeks.

However, if you notice any of the following side effects or your mild side effects do not go away, seek medical attention as soon as possible:

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

While you wait for help to arrive, stay with someone and remove any weapons or substances that can cause harm. You are not alone.

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How to safely take Cymbalta

It’s important to take Cymbalta only if a doctor prescribes it to you and to follow their instructions on how much and how often to take it.

Cymbalta can be harmful to certain people. If you have liver or kidney failure, it’s important to tell your prescribing doctor.

Cymbalta isn’t for everyone. It may not be suitable in the following circumstances:

  • During pregnancy: The FDA warns against using duloxetine-containing drugs during pregnancy due to the risk to your fetus. However, a 2020 study acknowledges that this risk is small. Your doctor can discuss with you whether the potential risk is worth the benefit.
  • You’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding: Duloxetine can show up in breast milk.
  • You’re an older adult: Cymbalta is an SNRI. These medications can cause low sodium levels in older adults.

Taking too much duloxetine can be fatal.

Symptoms that you have too much duloxetine in your system include:

  • seizures
  • coma
  • a rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting

The main symptom of a duloxetine overdose is serotonin syndrome. This is when too much serotonin builds up in your brain. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • restlessness
  • disorientation
  • hyperthermia
  • dilated pupils
  • tremors
  • rigid muscles
  • agitation

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Serotonin syndrome is a medical emergency.  

Summary

Cymbalta is an SNRI that contains the active ingredient duloxetine. It increases the serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in your central nervous system.

Cymbalta can help relieve nerve pain and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers believe that duloxetine disrupts the pain signals that damaged nerves send to your brain.

It’s essential to take Cymbalta as your doctor prescribes to get the most benefit and avoid taking too much.

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