A surprising 12 percent of the U.S. population regularly deals with migraine headaches. That covers roughly one in four households. Migraines do not discriminate, either. They affect about 18% of women, 6% of men, and 10% percent of children.
Migraine headaches can be disabling. Chronic sufferers typically have headaches once or twice a month, but over 4 million people report getting a pain daily for as many as 15 days a month. 90% of them are unable to work or go about regular activities in the middle of an attack.
One of the most disturbing facts about migraine headaches is that they are still a medical mystery. Although there are theories regarding their origin, most experts agree that there are many different factors involved, such as genetics and hormone levels.
Care plans tend to approach treatment from two sides: managing the pain and avoiding its triggers. No drug therapy works for all sufferers, though, and of the treatment options available, many come with significant risk of addiction or failure. Recently, researchers have been investigating the therapeutic power of the drug ketamine and how it might help to control migraine headaches.
Everyone has an occasional headache, but as those who experience migraines will tell you, it’s not the same. Migraines involve intense throbbing on one or both sides. Often, someone suffering from a migraine will experience bouts of nausea, vomiting, and light and sound sensitivity. Many experience warning signs of an impending attack, as well. These include:
- Flashes of light
- Odd smells
- Tingling in the face or limb
- Blind spots
Migraines can last anywhere from an hour to several days at a time, and they can start even before the pain comes. Physicians break a headache down into four cycles:
- Prodrome: subtle changes that warn of a possible migraine, such as constipation, moodiness, neck stiffness, and food cravings
- Aura: optical disturbances, such as flashes of light or loss of vision
- Attack: the onset of the pain
- Postdrome: the lessening and eventual disappearance of the pain, often causing fatigue, confusion, moodiness, or, in some cases, elation
Ketamine is a drug that has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that the medical community began to really understand the diversity of uses for it.
In the wake of the opioid crisis, ketamine has become a candidate to replace dangerous drugs for pain management in ERs. It is also a common choice for pain management after surgery, especially for total knee replacements.
Low-dose ketamine infusion can sometimes alleviate complex regional pain, as well as other forms of chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia.
Recently, though, ketamine is getting the most attention for its use in treating depression, PTSD, and other psychological disorders. There is evidence to suggest that ketamine works as a rapid-acting antidepressant for those with major depressive disorder or treatment-resistant depression. And, it may be particularly useful for ER patients with suicidal ideation. Ketamine can calm suicidal thoughts long enough for the patient to start responding to more traditional treatments, such as psychotherapy and SSRI prescription.
Ketamine and Migraine Headaches
Ketamine’s role in the treatment of migraines can cover many different avenues of care, but the current standard process is to combine analgesics with caffeine, ergotamines, and triptans.
A 2017 study published by the American Society of Anesthesiologists found that ketamine may be helpful for individuals who have migraine pain that does not respond to other forms of treatment.
The study found that 75% of the study participants had relief after a 3 to 7-day course of ketamine infusion. The patients typically rated their pain level at a 7.5 when admitted for treatment, and they rated it at about a 3.4 afterward.
This particular study focused on providing short-term relief, but many researchers indicate that ketamine may work as a long-term solution, as well. 40% of the study participants reported total pain relief for as long as 30 to 100 days after their ketamine treatment.
Ketamine and Prolonged Auras
Patients who suffer from prolonged migraine auras may find relief with ketamine, too. For most migraine sufferers, an aura lasts less than an hour. Those with familial hemiplegic migraine (a form passed down genetically) can have severe, disabling aura symptoms that last days. These effects may include flashes of light, loss of vision, or hearing noises.
Ketamine has been tested as a way to reduce the severity of these auras. Although not everyone benefited from the treatment, more than half did find relief from ketamine, proving it to be the first real treatment option for this condition!
More and more, researchers are finding that ketamine offers unique benefits for many conditions like migraine headaches. Please call us at our Treatment center in Los Angeles and Santa Monica to discuss more at 833-867-2329 and schedule an appointment today.