If you suffer from chronic pain, you know how disruptive it can be to your life. Pain causes constant discomfort that can interrupt your ability to sleep well, enjoy an active life, and do the things you love. We have a dedicated team of pain management specialists who can help you take back your life and live with less pain.

Over the last few decades, medical science has discovered that low dose ketamine infusions can help relieve chronic pain. The doctors at Pacific Pain & Wellness Group are experts in administering ketamine infusions to help you achieve pain relief and enjoy a better quality of life.

Ketamine Infusions for Chronic Pain

You may be a good candidate for ketamine infusions if you suffer from chronic pain and have not gotten relief from pain medications or other treatments. This is generally referred to as “treatment-resistance,” or when someone has exhausted all available therapy options without getting sufficient relief.

Several medical conditions could result in chronic pain. Pain may originate from a muscle, soft tissue, or nerve.

Some conditions that may result in chronic pain include:

  • Cancer
  • Migraines
  • Spinal injury
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Phantom limb pain after amputation
  • CRPS – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
  • Post herpetic neuralgia – a complication of shingles
  • Trigeminal neuropathic pain – shock-like facial pains that come and go
  • Temporomandibular pain – commonly referred to as TMJ
  • Fibromyalgia – widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and areas of tenderness

A Brief History of Ketamine

Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics. Ketamine is also known as Ketalar, Ketanest and Ketaret. It is used intravenously in higher doses to induce and maintain general anesthesia during surgery.

Calvin Stevens, an American scientist, discovered ketamine in 1962. This compound was found to be a derivative of PCP, which was first compounded in 1926 as an anesthetic. This class of drugs is considered a hallucinogen.

Ketamine’s history, as it applies to medical applications, began as a replacement anesthetic for PCP. They found that PCP caused long-term and severe hallucinogenic effects when trial subjects woke up. It was also found to cause delusions, delirium, and even psychosis.

Ketamine was initially used as a veterinary anesthetic, but was first tested on humans in 1964. In these early tests, ketamine was found to produce minor hallucinogenic side effects of shorter duration than PCP.

Through the 1970s and 80s, ketamine found its way into the illegal drug market. The illicit uses of ketamine continued to evolve as ingredients were added to alter its effects. One of these offshoot mixtures is the well-known drug ecstasy.

When carefully administered by medical professionals, ketamine infusions are shown to be beneficial in relieving pain, depression, and some mental disorders. It is still used today as a trusted anesthetic for both animals and humans.

How Ketamine Infusions Work

Ketamine has sedative (sleep inducing), analgesic (pain relieving), and amnesic (short-term memory loss) effects. However, when used in very small doses, it can provide pain relief without inducing sleep or causing amnesia. Ketamine IV relieves pain by blocking receptors for the neurochemical N-methyl-D-aspartate or NMDA. This brain chemical is thought to be involved in the brain’s perception of pain.

Ketamine has earned itself a respectable reputation in the realm of medical science. Its anesthetic properties are well known, and now ketamine research is underway to fully discover its potential in pain medicine and mood disorders.

Ketamine is thought to interact with other receptors, broadening its potential for application in medical treatments. There are sure to be breakthroughs in future studies, which is exciting for doctors and patients alike. Researchers are hoping to find new ways to benefit patients’ therapeutic needs in ways that go far beyond anesthesia, pain relief, and mood disorder treatment.

Limited Clinical Trials of Ketamine

Clinical trials on ketamine infusions have been lacking; there are good reasons why only a small number of studies have been done. Ketamine has been around for 50 years and has been safely and successfully used in clinical settings. We are only now discovering its potential, so research still needs to catch up with medicine!

There will undoubtedly be more clinical studies and medical trials in the future as ketamine infusions become more popular. For some people, this medication is their only remedy for chronic pain relief. Several successful studies have been done on the positive benefits of ketamine infusions in the past decade. Since then, the use of ketamine for chronic pain relief has greatly expanded.

Analgesic (pain relief) drug development typically progresses from studies on animals to studies with human participants. This eventually leads to clinical trials looking at the efficacy and safety of the drug in a population living with a specific condition for which the drug is being tested. A clinical trial involves both a test group (receiving the drug) and a control group (receiving a placebo).

Human-based drug studies may uncover an increased risk of side effects. This can subject the drug to an Investigational New Drug application requirement, which can be cumbersome. Because ketamine is available in generic form and has been in clinical use since 1970, it is considered safe for off-label use (such as for chronic pain relief and some mood disorders).

The few reviews that have been published on using ketamine infusion for chronic pain relief were based on subjective evaluation of the available evidence, which is not a formal clinical trial. Other reviews have focused on the use of ketamine in specific contexts such as in hospital emergency departments or as a tool to alleviate chronic postsurgical pain.

One review published in the Journal of Anesthesia and Analgesia was aimed at:

  1. Quantifying the degree of the pain relieving effect from ketamine infusions and determining response rates
  2. Quantifying the rates and types of adverse effects
  3. Identifying which pain conditions and what types of patients are more likely to respond
  4. Whether or not there is a dose-response relationship

This study found that ketamine infusions were effective for treating a range of chronic pain conditions, although the benefits lessened with time. However, it was also found that the benefits gained from ketamine infusions lasted much longer when used as a part of a comprehensive pain management program.

Ketamine infusions are recommended on a case-by-case basis rather than as a primary pain relief treatment. Additional research still needs to be done to determine:

  • Ideal patients and conditions for ketamine infusion
  • Optimal dosing regimen
  • Whether a combination therapy along with ketamine infusions provide superior benefit versus standalone treatment
  • Impact of infusions on physical, cognitive, and psychological function
  • Long-term adverse effects

How Ketamine Infusions are Done

A ketamine infusion is delivered through an IV, or needle placed into a vein in the arm or hand. If you have ever received IV fluids, you know what to expect. The only discomfort during a ketamine infusion is when the needle is inserted under the skin. You will feel a slight pinch, but once the needle is in place, you should not experience any pain.

During your appointment, you can expect:

  • A consultation about the dosage and duration of your treatment. This will be based on your weight, so you will receive the proper amount at the proper rate.
  • Your doctor will review your medical records and discuss your medical history with you.
  • You will be in a private treatment room in our office. This room is set up for your maximum comfort. There is no need to undress or get into a hospital gown, as the nurse will only need access to your arm to administer the IV.
  • The infusion will take about an hour and you can expect to remain for about 30 minutes afterward for monitoring.
  • You will need an adult to drive you back home after your IV treatment.
  • You should notice pain relief within a few hours after your infusion.

How Many Treatments Will it Take?

Results normally last for a few days after the first treatment. With subsequent treatments, your results will begin to last longer, so you will need fewer and fewer treatments to maintain your same level of pain relief. Many patients experience significant relief with just one or two infusions.

If your response to the initial infusion is positive, you will receive further infusions in rapid succession, usually six in the two weeks following your initial treatment. Please note: The number of infusions varies from patient to patient and may be administered either more often or less often, depending on when you achieve significant pain relief. After optimal relief is reached, we will recommend maintenance infusions or “booster infusions” to maintain your results.

Possible Side Effects of Ketamine Infusion

The side effects, treatment procedure, and number of follow up treatments will be thoroughly discussed with you. We will conduct a thorough medical examination to learn about any health conditions that might put you at a higher risk of experiencing side effects.

Temporary side effects can occur with ketamine infusions including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Altered perception of reality
  • Paranoid ideas
  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to control thoughts
  • Altered realization of time and space
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Increased awareness of sound and color
  • Euphoria – sometimes unpleasant, as in an bad LSD trip
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Speech impairment issues
  • Rapid, involuntary eye movement
  • Nightmares or vivid dreams
  • Impaired motor function
  • Memory deficits

Many of these side effects are easily treated and most are short-lived. This should not deter you from seriously considering ketamine infusions if you have not responded to other treatments.

Conditions that May Preclude the Use of Ketamine Infusions

The following conditions may result in adverse effects when combined with ketamine infusions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Active substance abuse
  • Uncontrolled thyroid disease, especially hyperthyroidism
  • Unstable heart disease such as arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, or coronary artery disease

Ketamine Infusions for Chronic Pain - Pacific Pain & Wellness Group, Torrance

Suffering with chronic pain can cause someone to feel isolated and alone. The fact is, you have a great deal of company. Up to 50 million Americans, or 1 in 5 people, experience episodes of severe pain lasting three months or longer. There are an estimated 1.5 billion chronic pain sufferers worldwide. In fact, chronic pain is the number one reason behind long-term disability in the United States.

When pain becomes chronic, it is often difficult to properly diagnose, particularly when the cause of the pain remains a mystery. This can be problematic to treat and may result in trying dozens of treatments with no relief. This gets even more complicated because what works for one patient may prove ineffective for another.

The news is getting much better for chronic pain sufferers as solutions such as ketamine infusions continue to show success. As part of a comprehensive pain relief management plan, you may be able to finally get the relief you’ve been searching for.

Let our dedicated, experienced pain specialists at Pacific Pain & Wellness Group in Torrance design a personalized treatment plan made just for you. Your consultation will help you understand the depth of knowledge and experience our team has in successfully treating patients just like you.

Contact Pacific Pain & Wellness Group today at (310) 437-7399.