Could depression medication relieve pain from knee osteoarthritis

Researchers at Arthritis UK recently announced the commencement of a clinical trial into the potential benefits of a medication commonly aimed at treating depression or anxiety for relieving knee pain as a result of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis explained

Osteeoarthritis is a joint condition whereby the joints become painful and stiff as a result of deterioration of the tissues. All joints in the body can be affected, but osteoarthritis of the knee is very common and can have a drastic impact on mobility as well as causing a great deal of discomfort and pain.

Although osteoarthritis is often seen as an inevitable result of the ageing process, there are other factors that can influence your chance of developing the condition. These lifestyle factors are often the first to be addressed by your GP to try and improve your condition. These include losing weight and embarking on a programme of regular exercise.

Alleviating pain associated with knee osteoarthritis

For many people living with knee osteoarthritis, pain relief is an important component of how they manage the condition. The type of medication you will be prescribed will be based on an evaluation of the severity of your pain. Options include:

  • paracetamol; this over-the-counter medication is often the first step
  • NSAIDs; this stands for non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs which reduce inflammation. These can be prescribed either as a topical cream or an oral medication and will reduce swelling as well as ease any pain and discomfort. You will have to closely follow the instructions of your GP to ensure no side effects
  • opoids; these include codeine and are a powerful painkiller but can also cause drowsiness and nausea
  • capsaicin cream; this topical preparation is applied directly to the area and blocks the nerves that send pain messages
  • corticosteroid injections; for very severe pain, you may require an corticosteroid injection directly into the affected joint to reduce swelling and pain

Now, researchers at the University of Nottingham pain centre are looking at how the drug duloxetine is able to effectively relieve pain and whether it will be of use to those suffering from a long-term condition such as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis sufferers recruited to the study will undergo MRI scans both before and after a six-week course of the drug to study how the pain relief mechanism works.

One patient who has already taken part in the trial reported: “My knees get very painful, even painkillers don’t work at times. During the trial my pain went away. I was able to swim further and walk quicker, and the tablets I took were much better than the painkillers I’d been taking.”

If damage to the knee joint is severe and pain relief is not working, then a partial or total knee replacement could be the solution. Knee specialist Mr Jonathan Webb can advise you on the potential benefits and limitations of knee replacement surgery so you can make an informed decision about your treatment. To book a consultation at either his London or Bristol knee clinics, call 08450 60 44 99.