One contributor to the current opioid crisis is chronic pain. When there’s no treatment or cure for a pain-causing condition, or when the reasons behind chronic pain aren’t entirely clear, pain management is often the only option for care.
However, prolonged use of many pain-relief drugs, including opioids, can create resistance to its effects for many patients, and increasing doses usually means increasing side effects, too. Intravenous (IV) infusions of ketamine may be an alternative for some people, reducing or eliminating the amounts of opioid medications needed to control chronic pain.
Use of ketamine as a low-dose pain management treatment is growing quickly, indicating its effectiveness in clinical use. The first set of guidelines for the use of ketamine as a pain management therapy, introduced in 2018, has gained acceptance by several leading medical groups.
Here are some of the key reasons why you should consider adding ketamine therapy to your chronic pain management regimen.
Ketamine gained prominence as a field medicine during the Vietnam War. Derived from the anesthetic phencyclidine hydrochloride (PCP), ketamine has only about one-tenth the potency of PCP, which proved to be a dangerous drug on the streets.
Ketamine abuse does occur, but when it’s introduced into your body in low-dose IV infusions, it’s proving a safe and reliable way to relieve chronic pain, without the withdrawal symptoms that often plague those who use opioid medications.
The safety of ketamine shows in the 2018 guidelines, which recommend it for use in patients undergoing painful surgery, even though there are newer drugs replacing it in the operating room itself. Used prior to surgery, ketamine can reduce postoperative pain and with it the need for opioid medications.
Postoperative care often benefits from the pain relief mechanism used by ketamine, which is still effective, even in patients who show resistance to the effects of typical opioid pain control.
Medically, ketamine is classed as an open-channel NMDA-receptor blocker, restricting activity of the thalamus and limbic systems. This means that ketamine stops some sensors in your central nervous system from receiving pain signals. Ketamine is also gaining attention for its potential to treat severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Most intravenous anesthetics depress heart activity, lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Ketamine is unique in its class, having the opposite effect, increasing these numbers instead. This may make it the ideal option for some patients who react negatively to other anesthetics.
Many patients find IV ketamine infusions to be relaxing treatments. You may feel as though you’re floating while receiving the infusion, a sign that your body is reacting to the medication. How quickly ketamine starts to act varies by patients and, after an initial treatment, you may need follow-up booster infusions to continue full pain relief.
Pain management is highly individual, depending on your condition and level of chronic pain. Dr. James Nassiri at Westside Pain Specialists is an experienced doctor and anesthesiologist, well-versed in current pain management practices. Call either office, send us a message here on our website, or use the convenient online booking feature.
The sooner you schedule your consultation, the sooner you’ll enjoy relief from your chronic pain.