Ketamine for Migraine Headache

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Have you ever felt a sharp stinging pain in your head that doesn’t just go away even after taking painkillers? […]

Have you ever felt a sharp stinging pain in your head that doesn’t just go away even after taking painkillers? Please don’t take it lightly because it could be a Migraine headache. Migraine is well-known among the masses as “Incurable Severe Pain in either side of the head region.”

It’s not incurable, but Ketamine has shown positive results in treating migraine headaches. You may feel like the world starts spinning faster when suffering a migraine attack. Everything’s become lucid, like in a dream where you feel a sharp, throbbing pain on either side of your head. Ketamine has been identified to show a positive response in reducing migraine severity.¹

Let’s learn a little more about the causes of migraine headaches before we move toward the treatment.

Causes of Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches are not typical headaches but a more complex form of a neurological disorder that only hurts one side of your head. It involves the patient suffering from moderate to severe levels of head pain that several different reasons can trigger. It can either be symptomatic or sometimes completely random.²

Usually, migraine headaches are triggered by abrupt situations such as sudden light reflexes, high temperatures, and extreme radiations. Some people are susceptible to weather conditions as well.²

Stress also plays a significant role in causing severe migraine. Some food additives, dairy products, improper rest, sleeplessness, and alcohol consumption may also contribute to causing migraine.¹

Get Sound Relief from your excruciating Migraine headaches, and musculoskeletal fatigues.

Migraine symptoms that you may experience

Studying the effects caused by migraine headaches may involve several different symptoms. You can guess you’re suffering from an acute migraine episode if you experience the following symptoms.³

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loud noise irritation
  • Susceptible to various smells
  • Facial pain radiating from your jaw
  • Painful pulsing sensation

Some patients with severe migraine headaches may also experience:³

  • Visual disturbances
  • Blind spots
  • Mood disturbances
  • Tingling sensation in your face, arm, or leg
  • Sometimes, difficulty in speaking is observed

Migraine headaches vary in severity and duration. Some migraine episodes may disappear in a few hours, while a severe migraine attack may last for days.⁷

Ketamine as a treatment option for Migraine headaches

Ketamine is a unique drug that is used as emergency medicine for treating migraines in some cases. The drug is famous for its anesthetic action used for its analgesic effects at correct doses. Ketamine has a slight sedative effect on your CNS and can reduce chronic pain.⁴

How does Ketamine work?

Being an opioid drug, Ketamine is a well-known agent that is commonly used as a painkiller. It acts as an antagonist of NMDA receptors that mediates the pain signals in the head region. Ketamine binds to these receptors blocking the brain and signaling pain perception. It counteracts the brain and the spinal cord and blocks the NMDA pathway.⁶

Ketamine works by inhibiting the neurotransmitter, N-methyl-D-Aspartate, responsible for the development of pain through the pain stimulation pathway. Since the neurotransmitter can’t bind to the respective NMDA receptors, no pain signals are sent to the brain. Thus, the patient doesn’t feel any migraine headaches but feels relief or reduction in the throbbing pain instead.⁵


  1. Stephen D Silberstein, Lancet, et al, 31 January 2004. Migraine. 363(9406): 381-91, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(04)15440-8
  2. Andrew Charles. Lancet Neurol, et al., February 2018, The pathophysiology of migraine: implications for clinical management;17(2):174-182. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30435-0. Epub 2017 Dec 8.
  3. N Karsan et al. 2017 July, Premonitory Symptoms of Migraine in Childhood and Adolescence. 21(7):34. doi: 10.1007/s11916-017-0631-y
  4. Pomeroy JL, Marmura MJ, Nahas SJ, et al. 2017,. Ketamine Infusions for Treatment Refractory Headache, Headache, 2017;57:276-282.
  5. Schwenk ES, Dayan AC, Rangavajjula A, et al., 2018, Ketamine for Refractory Headache: A Retrospective Analysis Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine 2018;43:875-879, Issue 8.
  6. J. Krusz, J. Cagle, V. Scott-Krusz, et al., APRIL 01, 2010, IV ketamine treatment for multiple headache and pain disorders, Supplement S43, Volume 11, Issue 4.
  7. Benjamin Gilmore et al. 2011. Treatment of acute migraine headache, Am Fam Physician. 2011 Feb 1;83(3):271-80

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