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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences 

Pitt Study of Lower Back Pain, Depression Seeks Participants

PITTSBURGH, March 23, 2012 – In an effort to help older adults living with low back pain and depression, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Late Life Depression Program are seeking participants for a clinical trial that will study the effectiveness of medication combined with counseling.  

Up to 25 percent of older adults suffer from both low back pain and depression at the same time, leading to physical inactivity and loss of independence. The organizers of this study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, are looking for participants who are at least 60 years old and who have low back pain that has lasted for at least three months and symptoms of depression, including low motivation, irritability, insomnia, anxiety and social isolation.

“Low back pain and depression are common, make each other worse and appear to respond to similar treatments, said Jordan F. Karp, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the principal investigator of the study. “Our goal is to improve the lives of seniors living with these linked conditions so they can enjoy their golden years.”

The University of Pittsburgh Late Life Depression Program is affiliated with the Aging Institute of the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC.

Participants in the study will receive a thorough evaluation of low back pain, other medical conditions and mood. They must agree to take the study medication – an antidepressant with pain relief properties – and, if assigned, be an active participant in counseling sessions. This brief counseling teaches problem-solving skills specific to managing pain, mood, sleep and other problems commonly experienced by seniors living with these linked conditions.

The research team works closely with each participant’s primary care physician. Participants may continue to take currently prescribed analgesics, such as Motrin, Tylenol and narcotics, but they are discouraged from starting any new pain medications or other treatments for their pain during the study. 

The study medication and other interventions are provided at no cost. Participants can receive up to $130 to defray the cost of transportation if all study visits are completed. 

For more information, call (412) 246-6015 or visit

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