Desert Pain Specialists can reset your nervous system with lidocaine infusions

Composite stock image, St. George News.

FEATURE — At Desert Pain Specialists  — Southern Utah’s premier interventional pain management team — we understand how consuming chronic pain is and the kind of burden it plays in your everyday life. This is why we are excited to offer another pain-relieving option: lidocaine infusions.

According to the National Institute of Health, chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Do you have nerve pain or neuropathy? Chronic migraines? Pain after shingles? Or maybe you have other chronic pain symptoms that have been unresponsive to injections, medications, supplements or all the above.

Well, lidocaine infusions might be the answer to reducing your pain. 

Most people probably know lidocaine as the medication injected right under your skin to numb the area before an IV or injection – or what the dentist might use to numb up your gums before they work in your mouth.

Lidocaine is a medication that stops nerves from conducting signals or talking to each other. If you can stop those signals, your spinal cord or brain doesn’t transmit those signals to tell your brain that you have pain, and subsequently, there is no pain when your doctor works on that area. Granted, a lot more goes into nerve signaling, but this is a simplified version of the body-spinal cord-brain pain pathway for numbing medication. 

But what if you could put that medication not just under the skin or in a muscle to numb it up? What if you were to put it straight into your veins and have it circulate throughout your entire body? This is where lidocaine infusions come in.

Stock image, St. George News

Intravenous lidocaine infusions have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of many chronic pain diagnoses which have been resistant to more traditional therapies, especially for neuropathic pain – pain that is coming from nerves. Common neuropathic pain states that have been treated by lidocaine include post-stroke pain, peripheral neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, atypical facial pain, shingles pain, headache/migraine and fibromyalgia.

Much is still being learned about how lidocaine infusions work, but we know it acts much like a computer’s “ctrl-alt-delete” or “reset” button except within your nervous system. It doesn’t take all your pain away, but it helps reduce the constant barrage of nerves firing, which is interpreted as pain.

So what does a lidocaine infusion entail? First, talk to your health care provider to see if a lidocaine infusion is right for you. If you have an arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), seizures, allergy to lidocaine or certain other health care concerns, a lidocaine infusion is not for you, as it could worsen these conditions.

If you and your provider feel lidocaine is a good option, you can expect to check in at Desert Pain Specialists or your provider like you normally would at the doctor’s office. A nurse will start your IV as you settle into a comfy chair, where we monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen. A physician will then meet you and discuss what to expect, along with risks and benefits.

The infusion itself is only 30 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of recovery where your vitals will continue to be monitored. Before you leave, you will be given a pain diary to log your pain level and other symptoms, such as sleep and other activities of daily living, over the next month. Your healthcare provider will then want to meet you in one month to follow up.

It is often found that repeat infusions improve pain control better and are recommended if any form of improvement is seen during the first infusion. Infusions can be done as close as four weeks.

Many patients ask how long they can expect to see results from a 30-minute infusion. Results vary from patient to patient, but examples of pain relief normally range from 80-90% for the first week, 70% the second week, 50% the third week and a slow reduction back to baseline the fourth week. Others see 50% for four weeks, with a quick decline toward the end of the fourth week, and even others see relief for longer than four weeks.

In any of these cases, the results of pain relief are longer than how long the actual medication lasts in your system. Within hours, the lidocaine is metabolized by your body, but the pain-relieving effects last much longer. This is why we refer to lidocaine infusions as the “ctrl-alt-delete,” resetting or rebooting of your nervous system.

Written by RACHEL ALLEN, Desert Pain Specialists.

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