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A Veteran receives IV Ketamine Therapy.

How Ketamine Changed the Life of a Veteran in Chronic Pain

Veterans make many sacrifices for our country and some of the wounds, whether sustained on the battlefield or off, are carried with them for the rest of their lives. A Texas veteran lived with chronic pain for several years–then he tried ketamine therapy, which restituted the life he thought was gone forever.

David had an active lifestyle growing up. With four siblings, he enjoyed playing a variety of sports, going hiking, and participated in many of the great outdoor activities in Northern California.

He joined the Marines after graduating from college as an infantryman. At first, he experienced no complications and could easily participate in all training missions involving rigorous physical activities—heavy lifting, running, climbing, sustained operations—everything you would imagine a Marine endures as they prepare for battle.

Throughout his time in the Marine Corps, he suffered multiple back injuries. Then one day, his life changed forever. David sustained an injury which permanently damaged the nerves in his back, along with spinal disc dysfunction. 

The injury caused agonizing pain as well as decreased function into the left leg. He was forced to medically retire from the marine corps and attempted to re-enter civilian life David thought he could live and function the same as he once did and handle the pain on his own. Yet gone were the days of playing basketball with his friends, jumping into the Pacific Ocean for a swim, or going out on a hike with his wife. 

His life as he once knew it—gone.

David realized that chronic pain is a condition and not a symptom that could be handled with any amount of prescription pain medications, mental training, physical therapy, or over-the-counter medications. He explored other treatment options, including electroconvulsive therapy, hydrotherapy, epidural injections, and cortisone shots. 

He continued to live with chronic pain.

It was at this point in his life when David realized conventional medicine was not going to provide the relief he needed to live a normal life. He learned about IV Ketamine Therapy from a former comrade in the Marines who told David he found relief from ketamine for chronic pain

While doing his own research about the benefits and applications of Ketamine therapy, David discovered Nova Vita Wellness Centers, and went in for a consultation. Upon learning that he was a candidate, David discussed the idea with his family. They all agreed that after numerous failed attempts at finding relief, it was worth giving this novel approach a try.

Over the course of two weeks, David received a total of six ketamine infusions. Immediately following each infusion, he noticed a decrease in his pain levels along with increased mobility.

At the end of the two weeks, David described the reduction in his pain levels as “life changing,” returning to the life he thought he lost. David resumed his hiking, exercising at the gym, working longer days in the office, all without ending the day in excruciating pain and intense migraine symptoms.

For anyone experiencing chronic pain, David had these words to say about IV Ketamine Therapy:  “Give it a shot. This does work and it has worked for me. What do you have to lose?”

Hear David’s story in his own words:

How Ketamine Treats Chronic Pain:

In 2018, the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine released consensus guidelines for IV ketamine in the treatment of chronic pain. Research has found the strongest evidence for IV ketamine Therapy to treat complex regional pain syndrome and neuropathic pain. Evidence also supports intermediate-term benefit of IV Ketamine Therapy for non-neuropathic pain conditions such as headaches and back pain

Ketamine acts on several pathways in the brain that play important roles in pain and mood regulation. Along with the neuropathic pain pathways that ketamine has shown to be beneficial in treating, these other pathways may explain why ketamine may be beneficial in non-neuropathic pain conditions and provide a rationale for its use as a topical pain relief agent. 

Research from the Yale School of Medicine found that ketamine triggers glutamate production, prompting the brain to form new neural connections. This could allow the brain to be more adaptable and to create new pathways, which would in turn provide an opportunity to create more positive thoughts and behaviors. Ketamine may also reduce signals in inflammation or help aid communication within certain areas of the brain. 

A study conducted in 2012 that lasted five years focused on whether or not outpatient IV ketamine infusions were satisfactory for pain relief in patients suffering from various chronic pain syndromes. The authors concluded that for patients with severe refractory pain, ketamine infusions improved their symptoms. In approximately half of the patients, relief lasted for up to three weeks with minimal side effects. This potential for a long-term benefit is why many healthcare researchers and clinical practitioners consider IV ketamine therapy a breakthrough treatment. 

What is Chronic Pain?

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, more than 1.5 billion people around the world have chronic pain. It’s the most common cause of long-term disability in the United States, affecting nearly 100 million people. There are several ways to classify and categorize chronic pain, but perhaps the most meaningful method is by its type or location.

To begin with, pain is considered to be chronic if it lasts more than 12 weeks. Acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, such as a burn, scrape, cut, broken bone, and more. A severe injury can be considered acute pain if it is effectively treated and the pain dissipates. Chronic pain occurs when pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years. 

Aside from being at the forefront of new treatment options for addiction and mental health conditions, the ability of ketamine to treat a variety of pain disorders is promising. This is especially true in the emergency department as healthcare professionals seek alternatives in the age of the opioid epidemic.