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How to Reduce Chronic Migraines with Ketamine Nasal Spray | A personal experience

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Classifying migraines stages

Anyone with chronic migraines understands that symptoms can vary between different people, so defining what is considered to be a ‘bad’ migraine can be difficult. That being said, there are usually three stages to a migraine:

  1. The onset of nausea and aura (changes in your sensory input such as foul smell, visual distortions, and sensitivity, and hearing sensitivity), with or without a headache.

  2. Symptoms become severe enough to inhibit continuing daily activities and headache becomes overwhelming;

  3. Headache peaks and you cannot tolerate sensory stimuli.

Understanding a general timeline for how long it takes you to go from the first onset of a migraine to the point where medical intervention would be required to end your migraine is vital in properly managing your migraines. The goal with the ketamine nasal spray is to keep you from ever getting to stage three.

My personal experience with migraines

In my own experience, getting to stage three is not only terrifying but it’s significantly harder to treat even with emergency care. I have hemiplegic migraines, one of the rarest forms that cause confusion, memory loss and paralysis. The near-daily migraines I was getting started to reduce my ability to properly function. I had difficulty talking and articulating my words. Understanding simple instructions and remembering anything from what day it was to what I was talking about became more and more frequent. I was treated in a hospital for these migraines over 125 times between 2015 and 2017 before I started ketamine treatments. Medical interventions from an ER were the only way to break out of a migraine and the constant use of heavy medications took a toll on my health.

My experience using ketamine for migraines

In 2018 I started monthly ketamine IV treatments which cut my migraines in half after the very first week. Most importantly, the severity of my migraines slowly reduced. I stopped getting confused with migraines and after a few months I no longer lost control of my muscles due to a migraine. I don’t think I could ever fully explain how grateful I was to finally have a medication that prevented migraines. I started to get my life back as my brain slowly healed. Within a year there was a profound difference between my cognitive functioning and communication abilities before and after starting ketamine treatments. Most days I couldn’t do much more than a few tasks and socializing was hard because I was insecure about talking. It was so difficult to feel like I had any sort of control over my life when I was in a constant state of confusion. Ketamine treatments not only helped my migraines but it also helped my brain overcome many of the obstacles that were keeping me from truly living and not just simply surviving.

Migraine Stages Chart with Ketamine Rescue

In 2019 I began using the ketamine nasal spray as a rescue for the breakthrough migraines I was having. My goal was to prevent a migraine from reaching the point where I would have to get treated at a hospital. I used between 2 and 3 sprays as soon as I knew I didn’t just have a headache, although the nasal spray would prevent those too. The best way to know you have a migraine and not only a headache is to pay attention to sensory sensitivity. If you exhibit symptoms from stage 1 then it is important you use the nasal spray as a rescue as soon as possible. Typically, I would begin to feel a difference of intensity within 5 minutes of using the nasal spray. If your symptoms continue to worsen or stay the same, you can repeat your nasal spray until you reach the full dose as directed by your doctor. On the very rare occasion that 45 minutes have passed since your last treatment, you should contact your doctor for additional instructions.

It’s important to note that sometimes your migraine hits stage three before you have a chance to use your rescue spray. It’s awful but thankfully you can still use your nasal spray. The safest thing you can do is to contact someone that can check in with you in an hour, do your best to find a place to lay down and follow your nasal spray instructions to take the full dose of ketamine. The nasal spray’s effects usually last about 45 minutes but you should feel it fully hit within 5 to 10 minutes. I’ve had a lot of success using the nasal spray to rescue every level of migraine. Treating your migraine sooner rather than later will increase its effectiveness. Occasionally I have a rebound headache a few hours later that is easily alleviated with water, sleep, and ibuprofen.

You should contact your doctor if you still have a migraine after rescuing. The nasal spray will make you feel elevated and sometimes dizzy or sleepy. Make sure you use it safely.

Ketamine changed my life. I eventually started using the nasal spray every night and found that I no longer had weekly migraines. The most profound side effect of using the nasal spray more frequently was that my brain began to recover even quicker. In the past few months, I’ve noticed that I’m almost back to the cognitive level I was at before migraines. Just a few years ago I had one of the best neurologists in the country tell me that I might never gain back the same functioning I used to have. Fast forward to today and after five years of fighting for my health, I’ve finally found myself healthy and hopeful for my future. I’m about to graduate college and I let go of the fear and anxiety I had toward getting sick again. I have control over my body, mind, and health again.

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Medical Oversight

Rita Rutland, APRN