I am so excited to finally be to my favorite letter – “I” — in my series on alternative pain treatments. The “I” stands for infusions.
There are many different types of infusions, but the four I will cover are ketamine, immunoglobulins, lidocaine and stem cells. I have done 3 of the 4, and one of my good friends has done the fourth with great success. So I feel comfortable sharing what I know about infusions based on my personal health journey.
I was afraid of ketamine when I first heard about it. Ketamine was created in 1962, when it was first synthesized by scientist Calvin Stevens at the Parke Davis Laboratories. Ketamine is a potent anesthetic that blocks pain by acting as a N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist. It can also reset glia nerve cells in the spine and brain.
Ketamine is not appropriate for everyone. For me, I saw it as a chance to reverse the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) that I had been living with since 2002. My excitement was great, along with my family’s. My regular treating doctors were not so optimistic about ketamine, but were not discouraging it either.
I began receiving ketamine infusions in 2009. They put me into remission and I continue with booster therapy as needed. I still have flares, but ketamine got me through the biggest challenges of living with RSD. Here is a video of me after my initial infusion treatments, which many find motivational.
Before I started getting ketamine infusions, they wanted me off opioids completely so that my nervous system would reboot better. Research showed that ketamine patients on opioids were not getting the same good results as people who stopped taking them. Since then, I have also learned that opioids also set off glia cells, which is not a good thing for nerve pain patients.
Intravenous Immunoglobulin – known as IVIg — is used to treat various autoimmune, infectious and idiopathic diseases. One of my best friends, who has multifocal motor neuropathy, uses it to stay functional.
I have not had IVIg yet, but if ketamine didn’t work for me, I would give it a try, insurance permitting. The cost per treatment is between $5,000 and $10,000, so for many it is not an option.
If you have the cash, the FDA has approved IVIg for graft disease and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). It is also used to treat patients with Kawasaki disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and polymyositis/dermatomyositis. I know a number of people who have used it for RSD.
One of the complaints I have heard from friends who use IVIg is that it takes time before your feel any benefits – sometimes days or weeks. If it is a viable treatment for you, there should be some changes…