What are Migraines?

Migraines are a type of severe headache that can cause intense throbbing or pulsating pain, often on one side of the head. They are a neurological condition and can be debilitating for those who experience them. Migraines are more than just headaches. They usually come with other symptoms and can significantly impact daily life.

Key characteristics of migraines include:

  • Throbbing Pain: The headache typically presents as a throbbing or pulsating pain. This pain can worsen with physical activity or exposure to light and sound.
  • Unilateral: Migraines often affect one side of the head, though they can sometimes occur on both sides.
  • Duration: Migraine attacks can last for a few hours to several days. The frequency of these attacks varies from person to person.
  • Other Symptoms: Migraines may come with other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound (photophobia and phonophobia), and visual disturbances known as auras. Not everyone with migraines experiences auras.
  • Triggers: Migraines can be triggered by various factors. These include certain foods, hormonal changes, stress, lack of sleep, bright lights, strong smells, and environmental changes.
  • Phases: Migraine attacks often have distinct phases. The prodrome phase (pre-headache warning signs like mood changes or food cravings), the aura phase (visual or sensory disturbances for some individuals), the headache phase, and the postdrome phase (recovery period).
  • Family History: Migraines tend to run in families, indicating a genetic predisposition.

Treatment Options for Migraines

Treatment for migraines can include over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, preventive medications, lifestyle changes, stress management, and identifying and avoiding triggers. For individuals with chronic or severe migraines, consulting a healthcare professional is essential to develop a personalized treatment plan.

How Does Ketamine Work to Treat Migraines?

Migraines are debilitating headaches that affect millions of people worldwide. Those who suffer from these intense and recurrent headaches know all too well the limitations they impose on daily life. Migraines are complex neurological conditions. They are characterized by severe headaches, often accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances. While their exact cause remains elusive, researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors, as well as changes in brain chemicals, contribute to the development of migraines. This complexity has made finding effective treatments challenging. And, this has left many sufferers searching for relief.

The search for effective treatments has led researchers to explore various alternatives. One of which has shown promising results: ketamine. Initially known for its use as an anesthetic and party drug, ketamine has recently gained recognition for its potential in managing migraines.

History of Ketamine Use

Ketamine was initially developed in the 1960s as an anesthetic. It was commonly used in medical and veterinary procedures. In recent years, researchers have started exploring its potential for managing various neurological and psychiatric conditions. These include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During these investigations, they made a remarkable discovery: ketamine seemed to provide relief for some individuals suffering from chronic and treatment-resistant migraines.

While the exact mechanism of ketamine's effectiveness in treating migraines is not yet fully understood, research suggests several potential explanations:

  • NMDA Receptor Modulation: Ketamine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist. By binding to NMDA receptors, ketamine blocks their activity. This leads to a decrease in the release of excitatory neurotransmitters. This reduction in excitatory signaling may help mitigate the hyperexcitability of brain neurons commonly observed in migraine sufferers.
  • Neurotransmitter Regulation: Ketamine is thought to influence the balance of neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), in the brain. By restoring the equilibrium of these neurotransmitters, ketamine may help alleviate migraine symptoms.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Some studies suggest that ketamine may possess anti-inflammatory properties. This could potentially reducing neuroinflammation, which has been linked to migraines.

Benefits of Ketamine Treatment

The potential benefits of ketamine in treating migraines are promising. Ketamine has shown the ability to provide fast relief, making it an attractive option for individuals experiencing severe migraine attacks. It has also demonstrated effectiveness in patients who have not responded well to traditional migraine treatments. For patients who overuse pain medications to manage migraines, ketamine therapy might offer an alternative that does not carry the risk of medication overuse headaches. However, it's essential to consider that ketamine is not without its side effects. For example, these side effects can include dissociation, dizziness, and changes in blood pressure. Additionally, long-term effects of ketamine for migraine treatment are still being studied.  It is essential to carefully weigh the benefits against potential risks.


Ketamine Infusion Treatment Plan for Migraines

Ketamine treatment for migraines generally requires the administration of multiple IV infusions. During a ketamine infusion for migraines, patients are closely monitored by medical professionals to ensure safety and efficacy. The treatment duration and frequency can vary depending on the individual's response and the severity of their migraines. Some patients may experience immediate relief. While others may require multiple sessions to achieve the desired outcomes.

This is a case where more ketamine can yield better pain relief and the safest way to infuse more ketamine is by using longer infusion times. Most of our patients receive high-dose, 60-minute infusions. There can be a tradeoff between having a longer, more intense infusion or coming in more frequently for shorter infusions. This can be an intense process for some patients. But, we always proceed one step at a time with safety being the primary concern. The treatment should only be performed by qualified healthcare professionals. And, it should only take place in a controlled environment due to the risks associated with ketamine use.

Caution and Considerations When Using Ketamine Infusion to Treat Migraines

While ketamine shows significant promise in treating chronic pain conditions such as migraines, it is essential to undergo a thorough screening prior to initiating treatment. Most patients can safely receive ketamine therapy. There are a few medical conditions that might require treatment prior to beginning therapy or stop you from receiving this treatment. A few examples are uncontrolled hypertension, active substance abuse, pregnancy or unstable cardiac disease. Ketamine is not a first-line or stand-alone treatment for chronic pain and is intended to be one component of a multimodal treatment regimen.

Although the potential for addiction is extremely low, ketamine can be abused or misused. Close monitoring by qualified medical professionals is crucial during ketamine administration to ensure safety and appropriate dosing.


As the understanding of ketamine's potential in managing migraines continues to evolve, it represents a beacon of hope for those struggling with this debilitating condition. While more research is needed to fully elucidate its mechanisms of action and long-term effects, ketamine therapy under the supervision of medical professionals holds significant promise for providing much-needed relief to individuals living with migraines. As researchers delve deeper into the science behind ketamine and its impact on migraines, the future for migraine sufferers appears increasingly hopeful.

If you suffer from migraines and other treatments are not effective for you, please contact us for a free consultation.