Does Cymbalta help with rheumatoid arthritis? (+5 benefits)

In this article, we will answer the question “Does Cymbalta help with rheumatoid arthritis?”. We will also explain the effects of Cymbalta on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and mention the treatments approved for managing rheumatoid arthritis.

Does Cymbalta help with rheumatoid arthritis?

Yes, Cymbalta can help with rheumatoid arthritis. Although Cymbalta is not typically prescribed to directly treat rheumatoid arthritis, it can help with certain types of chronic pain conditions, including RA.

Cymbalta is an antidepressant that belongs to the class of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. It is primarily used to treat depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Cymbalta is also approved for treating neuropathic pain, which arises from nerve damage. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause symptoms such as pain, stiffness, fatigue and difficulty moving the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the lining of joints, leading to joint pain, swelling, warmth and redness.

In some cases, Cymbalta is used to manage the pain associated with conditions like fibromyalgia, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, osteoarthritis knee pain and musculoskeletal pain. These conditions can sometimes coexist with rheumatoid arthritis, and the medication may help alleviate pain symptoms.(1)

Cymbalta may be a helpful adjunct therapy in managing rheumatoid arthritis, particularly for pain control and mood improvement. While Cymbalta may offer some benefits for rheumatoid arthritis pain management, its effectiveness and long-term impact require further investigation.

What are the effects of Cymbalta on rheumatoid arthritis?

Cymbalta works by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the central nervous system. These two neurotransmitters play a role in mood and pain perception. Increased serotonin and norepinephrine levels can have pain-inhibiting effects. (2)

Cymbalta’s effects on rheumatoid arthritis are complex and multifaceted, with both potential benefits and drawbacks:

Potential benefits

  • Pain relief: Cymbalta can be effective in reducing pain, especially neuropathic pain, which is often associated with rheumatoid arthritis. 


  • Mood improvement: Cymbalta can significantly help alleviate depression symptoms, which are common in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Improved mood can positively impact pain perception and overall well-being.


  • Effect on disease activity: Recent findings show that Cymbalta can have a small effect in slowing disease progression. Cymbalta may reduce disease activity in some rheumatoid arthritis patients, potentially slowing joint damage progression.


  • Improved physical function: Cymbalta can also improve physical function by reducing fatigue and stiffness. This allows patients to engage in activities that may have been difficult for them. (3)

Potential drawbacks

  • Limited effectiveness: Cymbalta’s benefits in rheumatoid arthritis are not as well-established as other approved treatments for RA. Cymbalta’s effectiveness is variable and should not be considered a primary treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.


  • Side effects: Cymbalta can cause side effects like nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, insomnia and sexual dysfunction, which can negatively impact the quality of life.


  • Drug interactions: Cymbalta can interact with other medications commonly used in RA treatment. This can potentially increase side effects and affect the effectiveness of the medications


What does the research suggest?

Studies suggest that Cymbalta significantly reduced pain (>30%) in 9 out of 12 studies and improved physical function in 8 out of 12 patients who were suffering from chronic pain. Additionally, 11 out of 12 studies observed moderately significant improvements in overall health.

Clinical data have shown that the response rate for duloxetine-treated patients ranged from 37% to 69%. These results suggest that Cymbalta can be an effective treatment option for patients with chronic pain. (1)

In addition,  a recent study investigated the effectiveness of Cymbalta treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis in clinical remission. Based on the evaluation of 306 patients, results suggest that Cymbalta can be a viable option for managing remnant pain, improving activities and reducing disease activity.(3)

It is important to note that these results are based on average response rates. Individual responses to Cymbalta may vary depending on the type and severity of pain, as well as other factors.


What factors can influence the effect of Cymbalta in managing RA?

Several factors can influence the effectiveness of Cymbalta in managing symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. These factors include the following:

  • Individual variation: Responses to medications can vary widely among individuals. Factors such as genetics and overall health state may influence how a person responds to the medication.


  • Severity of rheumatoid arthritis: The stage and severity of RA can impact the effectiveness of Cymbalta. In some cases, it may be more beneficial for managing certain symptoms, particularly associated pain.


  • Coexisting conditions: The presence of other medical conditions may affect the overall response to Cymbalta.


  • Medication interactions: Interactions with other medications being taken concurrently can affect Cymbalta’s efficacy and cause side effects. It’s essential to review the entire medication regimen to avoid potential interactions.


  • Dosage and duration of treatment: The prescribed dosage of Cymbalta and the duration of the treatment can impact its effectiveness.


  • Psychological factors: Mental health factors, such as depression and anxiety, can alter the perception of pain. Cymbalta can address both pain and emotional aspects, contributing to an improved overall response.


  • Patient adherence: Adherence to the prescribed treatment plan is a critical factor that impacts the effectiveness of Cymbalts. You should avoid missing doses or discontinuing Cymbalta without consulting your healthcare provider.


  • Lifestyle factors: Lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise and stress management can influence the effectiveness of Cymbalta.


What treatment options are approved for rheumatoid arthritis?

Several treatment options are approved for managing rheumatoid arthritis. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the disease, individual factors, and the goals of therapy. Here are some approved treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis (4,5):

  • Synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (sDMARDs): These medications, like methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine and leflunomide, work by slowing down the immune system and reducing inflammation. They are often used as the first-line treatment for RA.


  • Biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs): These are newer medications that target specific parts of the immune system involved in RA. Examples include adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab and rituximab. They are more effective than conventional (sDMARDs), especially for patients with severe or active disease.


  • Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors: These include tofacitinib and baricitinib. They are oral medications that target the Janus Kinase pathway to reduce inflammation in RA.


  • Corticosteroids: These medications can quickly reduce inflammation and pain, but they should be used with caution due to potential side effects like weight gain, osteoporosis, diabetes and other potential long-term side effects.


  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, can help manage pain and inflammation associated with RA. They are often used as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. 


  • Physical therapy: Healthcare providers can provide exercises and techniques to improve joint function, strength and flexibility.


  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists can help individuals with RA adapt their daily activities to manage limitations caused by RA.


  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair or replace damaged joints.



To sum up, Cymbalta can help with rheumatoid arthritis. It can effectively manage chronic pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. However, treatment with Cymbalta has a few drawbacks that must be considered. 

In my opinion, early diagnosis and prompt initiation of treatment are crucial to managing RA effectively and preventing long-term joint damage. I strongly suggest you work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.



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Brown JP, Boulay LJ. Clinical experience with duloxetine in the management of chronic musculoskeletal pain. A focus on osteoarthritis of the knee. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2013 Dec;5(6):291-304.


Skljarevski V, Zhang S, Iyengar S, D’Souza D, Alaka K, Chappell A, Wernicke J. Efficacy of Duloxetine in Patients with Chronic Pain Conditions. Curr Drug ther. 2011 Nov;6(4):296-303.,to%20substantial%20improvement%20in%20Patient


Yoshii, I., Chijiwa, T. Effectiveness of duloxetine for remnant pain relief in patients with rheumatoid arthritis despite remission. Drugs Ther Perspect 36, 288–292 (2020).


Bullock J, Rizvi SAA, Saleh AM, Ahmed SS, Do DP, Ansari RA, Ahmed J. Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Brief Overview of the Treatment. Med Princ Pract. 2018;27(6):501-507.


Radu AF, Bungau SG. Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Overview. Cells. 2021 Oct 23;10(11):2857.

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