Chronic Pain and Memory: Is There a Connection?

Everyone experiences pain. Sometimes the pain is great, and sometimes the pain is minor. According to Pain News Network, pain is “a sensation that we experience both biologically and emotionally.” This means that pain starts as a result of physical interference—like a scraped knee, for example—but then also manifests itself emotionally, through mental health disorders such as depression and PTSD. Chronic pain, then, is the presence of both physical and emotional pain for extended periods of time.

Also according to Pain News Network, many patients who suffer from chronic pain also experience some form of memory problems. Several studies have concluded that the typical treatment for chronic pain—the use of opioid painkillers—may also lead to further memory dysfunction. Recently, researchers dove a bit deeper into the use of opioids for chronic pain management and the effect it may have on memory.

24 studies were conducted, which measured both working memory (WM) as well as long-term memory (LTM) in patients with chronic pain. According to the studies, most patients indeed suffered from daily concentration issues and memory deficits. This was accompanied by forgetfulness, an inability to perform simple tasks, and an inability to maintain conversation. As a result of the initial chronic pain and treatment, many patients also suffered from depression, anxiety, and rumination. This research has shown that managing pain requires much of both the mind and the body, and attempting to overcome it alone often proves fruitless.

When the response to opioid medications was looked at more closely, what researchers found was that some patients saw improvement in memory function, while others had significant declines. This makes it unclear as to where the source of the problem lies. What is clear, though, is that effective pain relief may also reverse pain-induced memory impairment, and that many patients will experience memory impairment when being treated with opioids.

As an alternative to opioids, many chronic pain patients have turned to ketamine infusions for relief. In addition to its ability to alleviate chronic pain symptoms, it also boasts the added benefit of repairing and improving neural pathways in the brain—pathways deeply associated with learning and memory. Thus, patients who find themselves suffering from memory issues after taking opioids may be able to counteract those symptoms by switching to ketamine infusions for the treatment of chronic pain.

Furthermore, ketamine is widely known and accepted for its ability to rapidly alleviate depression and PTSD symptoms—both of which may manifest in patients suffering from chronic pain. It is likely that its unique effects on the glutamate system, as an NMDA-receptor antagonist, have a lot to do with this. For many mental healthcare practitioners, ketamine is seen as a miracle drug capable of relieving some of the more pernicious treatment-resistant conditions. Ketamine’s numerous applications make it a treatment that is hard to ignore—especially for those suffering from a chronic pain condition.

Contact Vitalitas Denver

If you or a loved one has failed to find relief for your own chronic pain or depression, contact our Denver and Fort Collins/Boulder area ketamine clinics today. We are one of the most trusted clinics in the country, and are happy to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have about ketamine infusions for chronic pain and depression.

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