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Nortriptyline is an antidepressant that can also be to treat back pain. It is a relatively strong medication that is only available through a doctor’s prescription.

Nortriptyline can be taken in pill and liquid form in dosages that range from 1-4 times a day. It must be administered under the guidance of a trained medical professional.

Conditions Treated by Nortriptyline

Common pain conditions treated by nortriptyline include:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Cancer-related pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Post-herpetic neuralgia
  • Pain from burst or herniated discs
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal or forminal stenosis
  • Spinal tumors
  • Migraines and headaches

Because nortriptyline directly affects the nervous system and neural chemistry, it is often prescribed in small doses for nerve-related back pain such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and post-herpetic neuralgia. The drug helps balance chemicals in the brain and central nervous system, often causing any burning pain to disappear.

Common Side Effects

Because nortriptyline is a powerful medication, it has many potential side effects. These are afew of the minor ones you can expect when taking nortriptyline:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Sweating

Some of the more major side effects of nortriptyline include:

  • Impaired vision and speech
  • Heartbeat anomalies
  • Jaw, neck and back spasms
  • Allergic reaction – swelling, difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Hallucination
  • Increased risk of suicide


Doctors should initially prescribe a low dosage of nortriptyline to prevent the possibility of overdose. Always stick to your prescription even if you feel that the drug is not effectively treating your back pain. Some overdose symptoms include:

  • Seizure
  • Agitation
  • Rapid decrease in body temperature
  • Severe mood swings and behavioral changes
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Coma


Nortriptyline overdose may also lead to death. Young adults are especially at risk for many of these side effects, especially suicide. Nortriptyline and other antidepressants are not recommended for teenagers and young adults.

Finally, nortriptyline should not be taken in conjunction with alcohol or medications like MAO inhibitors and other antidepressants. Mixing these medications and other mind-altering substances could result in overdose symptoms or death.


If it is your first time taking an antidepressant, you will likely be put on an ultra-low dosage; do not attempt to take more than the amount for which you are prescribed.