What is amitriptyline and why is it prescribed?
Amitriptyline is a type of drug called a tricyclic antidepressant. Although these are used for anxiety and depression, lower doses are also widely used to block the long-term (chronic) pain of some rheumatic conditions. Some other antidepressants can also be used for chronic pain.
Chemical changes in the spinal cord and brain (central nervous system) can affect pain regulation and lead to increased pain and distress. Amitriptyline rebalances the chemicals in the central nervous system, which can relieve pain, relax the muscles and improve sleep. It can also help with any anxiety and depression resulting from the pain, though low doses are not enough on their own to treat severe depression.
If amitriptyline works for you the effect on sleep is usually immediate, and your pain and mood are likely to improve within two to six weeks.
Why am I being prescribed amitriptyline?
Amitriptyline can be prescribed by a consultant rheumatologist for chronic pain caused by:
Are there any reasons I won't be prescribed amitriptyline?
Amitriptyline won't be prescribed if you're recovering from a recent heart attack (myocardial infarction) or if you have:
- a condition called heart block
- uncontrolled bipolar disorder (extreme mood swings)
- acute porphyria (an enzyme disorder causing severe nerve or skin symptoms)
- certain forms of glaucoma (increased pressure within the eyeball).