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What Does Ketamine Do For Chronic Pain?

Pain is a normal and often vital part of life. It is the body’s way of telling us we are hurt or ill. But when the pain becomes a chronic problem, it can cause a profound impact on a person’s quality of life. If left untreated, chronic pain can become a debilitating condition and make it difficult to perform simple tasks, enjoy hobbies, and even spend time with family and friends. 

In some cases, chronic pain can also cause or aggravate psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety.

What are the Causes of Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is often defined as pain that persists for more than three months. There is no single cause for chronic pain. In some cases, chronic pain may result from an injury or an underlying health condition. In other cases, there is no obvious cause for the pain. Common factors associated with chronic pain include:

Injuries

Serious injuries can cause permanent changes in the body that result in chronic pain. For example, a broken bone may heal, but the person may continue to experience pain at the site of the fracture.

Nerve Damage

The nerves are responsible for sending signals between the brain and the body. When damaged, either due to injury or illness, they can send “false” or exaggerated pain signals to the brain.

Illness

Certain illnesses, such as cancer and arthritis, can cause chronic pain. In some cases, the pain is a symptom of the disease. In other cases, the pain may be a side effect of treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Psychological Factors

Sometimes, chronic pain can develop without any physical injury or illness. This type of pain is referred to as psychogenic pain and is often the result of psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. 

Ketamine for Chronic Pain Management

Chronic pain is a complex condition that calls for a comprehensive approach to treatment. Unfortunately, most traditional pain management strategies, such as pain medication, are barely effective and mostly don’t address the underlying cause.

This means that the pain resurfaces as soon as the medication wears off. In some cases, traditional chronic pain medications can make the pain worse or lead to dependency and addiction issues.

Ketamine therapy provides a much-needed alternative to traditional pain management strategies. Unlike other medications, ketamine infusions have high efficacy and have shown great promise in providing long-lasting relief for severe and hard-to-treat chronic pain

A Short History of Ketamine

Ketamine is a medication that has been used safely for decades as an anesthetic thanks, in part, to its strong analgesic effect. In the 1970s, ketamine was introduced as a battlefield anesthetic during the Vietnam War. It was found to be highly effective in managing pain and preventing PTSD (then known as “shell shock”) in wounded soldiers.

Ketamine has also been used extensively in emergency rooms and burn units to manage pain in children and adults. However, it was not until recently that this groundbreaking medication found application in chronic pain treatment.

How Does Ketamine Help With Chronic Pain?

Ketamine works by blocking the NMDA receptor. This is a protein found in the brain that is responsible for sending signals between neurons. According to studies, the NMDA receptor plays a role in the development of chronic pain and central sensitization.

By blocking this receptor, ketamine is able to interrupt the pain signal and provide quick relief from chronic pain. Ketamine has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antidepressant effects that can further reduce chronic pain.

As far as long-term pain relief goes, ketamine has a unique ability to trigger neuroplasticity, allowing the brain to create new healthy pathways and connections. This prevents the transmission of “false” or “exaggerated” pain signals, as is often the case in chronic pain.

Studies also suggest that ketamine’s “healing effect” on the brain may help reverse opioid tolerance. This is a major problem with traditional pain management strategies that often require ever-increasing doses of opioids to achieve the same level of pain relief over time.

Safety of Ketamine Infusions

Clinical studies have shown subanesthetic doses of ketamine to be safe and well-tolerated in adults. While there may be some potential side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, they are usually short-lived and go away on their own.

This is consistent with a report published by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which attests to the safety of low-doses of ketamine infusions.

The Bottom Line

Ketamine has proven to be a safe and effective alternative to traditional chronic pain management strategies, offering long-lasting relief without the risk of addiction or dependency. 

If you have been struggling with chronic pain with no hope for relief, talk to your doctor about ketamine infusions as a possible treatment option.

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If you are experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, please contact 911 or the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Do not rely on communication through this website for urgent medical needs.

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