What is ketamine treatment for migraine like?

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What is ketamine treatment for migraine like: a photo of a middle-aged woman with short cropped red hair standing against a green wall

What is ketamine treatment for migraine like?

I have experienced chronic migraines for most of my life, and the most important thing I can tell you about my ketamine treatment is that it worked!

I was in the hospital from a Tuesday to Friday, not as long as I expected after reading about someone else's experience. She said she's in about 11 days; I don't remember if that was just her first time or if she's in that long every time. I just wonder why she's in so long. Perhaps they ramp up and taper down her dosage slower than mine.

I was given at least three neurological exams; there could have been more, but I don't remember.

They warn you that you can lose time and place with ketamine treatment for migraines, that you could hallucinate. 

The start of my ketamine infusion treatment

When they started my ketamine infusion treatment on a Friday night, I told  Stuart, my partner, I wasn't sure about this because I felt nothing, and my head hurt. What was really happening was that they were increasing the dose very slowly using a nasal spray. 

I had double vision by midday the next day, which wasn't so bad. If I closed one eye, I could see just fine. Then I was all giggly for a bit, entertained the staff, and slept a lot!

I asked  Stuart if we'd changed rooms every time I woke up. I kept feeling like they were taking me places, but I always woke up in the same place; weird, huh? I was always hungry when I'd wake up, so it must not have curbed my appetite; however, I admit I didn't eat a lot there. I was starving when I'd wake, but after eating just a little, I didn't want any more. Too bad that didn't stay with me after I left the hospital!

Once a nurse or doctor…I don't remember which, asked me what my pain level was, and I answered, "what's pain?" So she touched my forehead and said, "Does it hurt in here?" I can't remember my answer. 

When I read the other person's experience with ketamine treatment for migraines, she said to make sure you stretch and walk the halls with help each day; she even said she would do some yoga. I could barely walk to the bathroom with my partner helping me. 

The day before the higher dose, I did some bed yoga and meditated….but then it kicked in. I started to feel really high. I wasn't scared, maybe because I knew a little of what to expect since I have Spravato (esketamine) every week. Spravato isn't anything like this, but it got me used to feeling wonky. 

[Esketamine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, is marketed under the name Spravato.® It is a nasal spray that allows the drug to be absorbed through the lining of the nose, directly to the blood stream. In addition to treatment for depressions, trails have shown its efficacy for the treatment of severe migraines. Source: Cook Children's Health Care System]

I learned early on with Spravato to not fight the feeling, just relax and go with it. So that's what I did while going through my ketamine treatment, which I can honestly say this treatment was straightforward and very well monitored. 

I liked that although I was hooked up to a heart and oxygen monitor, the machine for it was in a different room. I never heard a beep. You know what I'm talking about if you've ever been in the hospital. I think that would have driven me crazy. 

Of course, I did get my blood pressure monitored by my medical team, but after the first day, they didn't do it much. At least, I don't remember if they did or not. When it started, they had to check my blood pressure every 30 minutes, then she left me alone for six hours. My mind was racing so much that I couldn't sleep, so I read. Reading was so much fun for me there.

(Luckily, I can blow the words up big on my Kindle so I could still read.)

The one really cool thing I remember about my ketamine treatment in hospital is reading. I was reading a book that has a lot of moodiness to it. It often took place outside. When I was reading, I was transported into the novel. Not as a character. But all around my Kindle, throughout my room, I felt like I was in the book. I miss that part; it was just so cool, like visiting a different land.

Most of the time, I slept. It was a great time to catch up on some serious Zzzzzzs. And Stuart was able to work right there. He got in a lot of work when I was zonked out. We thought they'd kick him out after visiting hours, but nope. He stayed there every night. Really we wasted money on a hotel room; we only slept there the night I got discharged.

Okay, funny thing, I wrote this right after I got home from my ketamine treatment. But I didn't publish it, so I can update you now, some two weeks later, that my migraines are So Much Better! 

Today I woke with one that was a bit higher than they've been lately, but I treated it, and now I'm fine. I am in the middle of a Spravato treatment, so I haven't really read over this or edited it, so it might be weird. A bit like me.

My doctor said to treat my migraines aggressively, so when it hits a 5, I take meds. (before my treatment, I was always an 8 or greater), I have a variety of different medications, so even if I have a migraine start every day, I always have something I can take. There's only one medication that I take that can cause medication overuse headaches, so I only use that twice a week (if needed. So far, I've only used that medication (Migranal, a DHE nasal spray) once since I've been back. 

It was the only medication that would help my very severe headaches; even then, I had to take it with another medication Keterolac, which is for the short-term relief of moderately severe pain. I guess that's two medications that can cause medication overuse headaches, but I always use them together.

I'm so thrilled that I am so much better. I've actually been opening the curtains in my house; I no longer have to live in the dark!!

I don't know how long this ketamine treatment will last; for some, it is three months; for others, a year. I'm hoping I'm one of the year, or longer, people. I'm very lucky that I found a place that does this treatment; there are very few places that do. Jefferson Hospital in Pennsylvania was one of the first to do it; they've done a lot of research on it.

My doctor works at the Lewis Headache Clinic at Barrow Neurological Institute in St Joseph's hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.

Overall I am very happy I went through this treatment, and I'm over the moon that I now have a doctor who is so knowledgeable and cares, and she understands complex cases. Stuart picked on her because she said I am complex, so she changed what she said to say, 

"No, She's not complex; her symptoms are." 

I think that's the way we should always think of it. We are not our symptoms!!

How does Ketamine work for migraine headaches?


Because migraine headaches are challenging to treat, specialists are paying close attention to ketamine for pain management. 

Ketamine is widely known as a pain medication as well as being used for depression. It's also used as anesthesia in higher doses. However, specialists are turning to lower doses of ketamine as a treatment option for migraine headaches as well.

Ketamine is an excellent option for patients who experience migraines and haven't responded to other therapies. 

Under most circumstances, patients who respond the best to these treatments are experiencing severe migraines. These patients tend to rate their pain level between three and ten on the pain scale when they discharge. 

That's in comparison to having a pain level of over seven when they arrive for treatment. After experiencing pain levels that are high for several days, patients want relief.

According to the British Journal of Pharmacology, "Current data on short-term infusions indicate that ketamine produces potent analgesia during administration only, while three studies on the effect of prolonged infusion (4–14 days) show long-term analgesic effects up to 3 months following infusion." In low doses, patients can receive relief because ketamine produces potent analgesia during episodes of neuropathic pain.


Source: TMS Brain Health


What is ketamine treatment for migraine like? was original published by Wendy on their blog Picnic With Ants and is republished here with minor edits under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 3.0.


I have experienced chronic migraines for most of my life, and the most important thing I can tell you about my ketamine treatment is that it worked! | Photo credit: ©ajr_images / Adobe Stock