What Is Cymbalta Used For? How Does Cymbalta Work?

Last Updated: December 18, 2019

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

What Cymbalta is used for varies. It includes depression and anxiety, nerve pain, fibromyalgia, etc. Apart from these uses, duloxetine has many off-label ones. In this regard, it is important to understand the duloxetine mechanism of action and how the medication works to be sure in the treatment plan.

What Is Cymbalta Used For?

Cymbalta is an antidepressant of the SNRI subclass. While what Cymbalta is used for does include the treatment of the major depressive disorder, its applications extend far beyond this. Cymbalta uses can be divided into two classes: those with FDA approval and those that are done off label.

FDA-Approved Cymbalta Uses

  • depression, including Bipolar Disorder
  • diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • fibromyalgia
  • chronic musculoskeletal pain, including that caused by arthritis

Off-Label Cymbalta Uses

  • migraines
  • back pain
  • glaucoma
  • lupus
  • ADHD
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)
  • general chronic pain, not caused by one of the FDA-approved conditions

Cymbalta For Depression And Anxiety

Despite being able to treat many different conditions, the best-known duloxetine uses are to treat depression and anxiety. Because the Cymbalta classification is antidepressant, the general association between the medicine and these conditions makes sense.

The dosing of Cymbalta for anxiety and depression are quite similar, with duloxetine 60 mg being the maximum daily amount. Patients need to follow the instructions of their doctor when using duloxetine carefully.

Cymbalta For Nerve Pain

Another condition that duloxetine does treat is nerve pain. Many doctors prescribe Cymbalta for neuropathic pain related to diabetes or injury. However, it is generally recommended that duloxetine for nerve pain only be considered once other medications have been proven ineffective.

cymbalta for pain

Studies have proven that using Cymbalta for neuropathy is effective. However, it does come with potentially adverse effects. Doctors and patients should weigh their options carefully.

Cymbalta For Fibromyalgia

It is becoming more and more common for doctors to prescribe duloxetine for fibromyalgia. This is unsurprising, as studies have found it more effective than many traditional treatments. As with treating nerve pain, it is known to cause adverse effects, but given that it can treat both the pain of fibromyalgia and the depression suffering from the condition often causes, many doctors are using it as their go-to for fibro treatment.

Cymbalta For Back Pain

Less common is using duloxetine for back pain. However, many doctors believe that it is an effective use for Cymbalta. Given that duloxetine can help other kinds of pain, this is a logical conclusion.

There are two primary types of back pain duloxetine is used to treat. Doctors use Cymbalta for osteoarthritis pain in the back, caused by arthritis developing in the spine and hip joints. They also use duloxetine for sciatica, which is considered a type of nerve pain.

Cymbalta Mechanism Of Action

While knowing what Cymbalta is taken for certainly is important, users should also know about the mechanism of action. However, the duloxetine mechanism of action is not very well understood. Still, users need to know what the research has to say about the Cymbalta mechanism of action.

How Long Does It Take For Cymbalta To Work?

How long duloxetine takes to work depends on a few factors, including:

  • the health of the user
  • the size and fat percentage of the user
  • when the medicine is taken
  • if it is taken with food or not
  • the general metabolism of the user
  • what duloxetine is being used to treat

There is also the question of how fast does Cymbalta start working once use begins or if one wants to know how long it takes for each dose to work after it has been taken for a while. From the first dose ever taken to seeing effects, it usually takes around six to eight weeks.

how long does it take for cymbalta to work

As for feeling individual doses, that depends on how long Cymbalta stays in the system and how the dosing is done. If the user is taking two doses a day, their body may never clear enough of the drug for them to feel a difference.

How Does Cymbalta Work?

Researches understand a lot about what Cymbalta does. What is less clear is how duloxetine works. The mechanism of action is to selectively inhibit the body’s ability to reuptake serotonin and norepinephrine that it produces, keeping more of the chemicals active in the body. But what duloxetine does to accomplish this is not known.

The Best Time To Take Cymbalta

The best time to take duloxetine depends on the individual using it. Some users may have sensitive stomachs, so for them, the best time of day to take Cymbalta would be right after a meal. Others may experience insomnia and find that when to take Cymbalta is first thing in the morning rather than at night.

Some general guidelines are as follows:

  • Speak to the prescribing doctor about if the medication should be taken as one daily dose or two.
  • Begin by taking the medication with food and plenty of water.
  • After a while, the user can test taking the medication with less water and without food.
  • If side effects are experienced, such as Cymbalta nausea, go back to taking it with food.
  • Be mindful of how duloxetine impacts sleep; if it makes the user tired, take it at night, and if it causes insomnia, take it in the morning.
  • Notice if it is causing changes in sexual health; Cymbalta sexual side effects in females and males may be partially eliminated based on the time of day the pill is taken.

best time to take cymbalta

Additionally, when is the best time to take Cymbalta can vary based on what it is meant to treat. Thus, when someone should take duloxetine is something to discuss with their doctor. No matter what time is best, users should always take duloxetine at the same time each day.

Best Time To Take Cymbalta For Fibromyalgia

There is no ideal time to take duloxetine for fibromyalgia. It may depend on when the user tends to experience pain. For those who tend to feel it more during the day, taking it upon waking up is best. For those who need help sleeping at night due to the pain, taking it a few hours before bed may be ideal.

Best Time To Take Cymbalta For Anxiety

Much like with fibromyalgia, users should base their dosing times on when they tend to experience anxiety. For some, it is a daytime issue, triggered by various experiences. For others, the altered state of the brain when tired is what brings the attacks on. Users should select the time that works best for them.

Can One Take Cymbalta At Night?

The one time it is not recommended to take Cymbalta is at night right before bed. Insomnia is a larger risk if it is taken at this time, and the lack of sleep can exacerbate the symptoms duloxetine is meant to treat. However, some users may find that taking Cymbalta at night is best for them. Ultimately, it is recommended that other times be tested before trying to take it before bed.

Duloxetine Warnings

There are numerous Cymbalta contraindications and warnings users should be aware of. Most of these problems can be avoided by being open and honest with the prescribing doctor. However, sometimes, things slip through the cracks. Anyone taking the drug should understand duloxetine contraindications and warnings.

cymbalta contraindications and warnings

When Duloxetine Use Becomes A Problem

Whether for what purposes one uses Cymbalta, a danger of abuse may arise, and help is needed. Rehab centers are among the best options for those who experience severe symptoms or abuse the drug. The medical staff there know how to ease Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms and get users clean safety.

Page Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19821395
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056054/
  3. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/duloxetine

Published on: May 30th, 2019

Updated on: December 18th, 2019

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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