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  • Writer's pictureMolly Zive

Can Ketamine Infusion Therapy Treat Pain?

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for more than three months or beyond the healing period of an injury or illness. According to a 2019 report by the CDC, approximately 20.4 percent of the American adult population lives with chronic pain.

Despite the high prevalence, the complexity of chronic pain means finding an effective treatment is a challenge. Some people may find relief with medication, physical therapy, or other interventions. Others may not respond to traditional pain treatments and are left with no hope of relief. This is where ketamine therapy for chronic pain treatment comes into the picture.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medication that has been used for over five decades for anesthesia and short-term pain relief in emergency rooms, dentist offices, and during invasive surgical procedures. More recently, ketamine has gained a lot of attention due to its potential uses outside the operating room.

What Conditions Can Ketamine Help Manage?

The clinical use of ketamine began in the 1990s when Yale researchers noticed an antidepressant effect caused by anesthetic ketamine. Follow-up studies and clinical trials proved that low-dose ketamine infusions have a rapid-acting antidepressant effect and a potential to provide prolonged symptoms remission for patients diagnosed with severe and treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine has also shown great promise as an off-label treatment for a variety of other conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Suicidal ideation

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

How Does Ketamine For Chronic Pain Work?

The precise mechanisms behind ketamine’s therapeutic effects are not yet fully understood. However, it is thought to work by blocking N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which are involved in pain signaling and perception, effectively disrupting pain transmission.

Ketamine is also thought to increase synaptic plasticity and connectivity in the brain. Synaptic plasticity refers to the ability of neurons to change and adapt in response to new stimuli or experiences. Since chronic pain is, in most cases, caused by changes in how the brain processes and perceives pain signals, ketamine’s ability to improve synaptic plasticity and connectivity may also play a significant role in its painkilling effects.

Due to the unique mode of action, ketamine is more suited for certain chronic pain conditions, especially those with a neuropathic component (pain caused by damage to or malfunction of the nervous system). This means it may not work effectively for all types of pain.

Why Ketamine Therapy?

There are many potential benefits of ketamine therapy for chronic pain. First and foremost, it is a safe and well-tolerated treatment option with a low risk of serious side effects. Additionally, ketamine can help manage chronic pain that is unresponsive to other interventions.

Another potential benefit of ketamine therapy is its rapid onset of action. Unlike other chronic pain treatments that can take weeks to produce results, ketamine infusions can potentially provide relief within hours (or days in some cases) of treatment. This can be a game-changer for most chronic pain patients.

Finally, ketamine has the potential to provide long-term relief from chronic pain. While traditional pain treatments may only provide temporary or short-term relief, ketamine has been shown to produce long-lasting effects. Some people experience complete freedom from pain for weeks or even months after the initial course of treatment.

When To Consider Ketamine For Chronic Pain Treatment

If you have chronic pain that is unresponsive to traditional treatments or you are concerned about the potential side effects associated with medications such as opioids, ketamine therapy may be what you need. Talk to a licensed provider today to see if you’re a good candidate for ketamine treatment.

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