About The Treatment
Do you have nerve pain or neuropathy? Chronic migraines? Pain after shingles? Or other
chronic pain which have been unresponsive to injections, medications, supplements or all the
above without relief? Well, there might be something more to reduce your pain…Lidocaine
You probably know lidocaine as the medication that is 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, then your spinal cord or brain
doesn’t transmit those signals to tell your brain that you have pain – SHAZAM! – 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.
Well, 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. 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 (or pain that is
coming from nerves). Common neuropathic pain states that have been treated 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
the “ctrl-alt-delete” or “reset” button on a computer 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 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 like you normally would at the doctor’s office. A nurse will get you and 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, 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 (like sleep, activities of daily living, etc.) over the next month. Your
healthcare provider will then want to meet you in 1 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 4 weeks.
After The Treatment
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 1 st week, 70% the 2 nd week, 50% the 3 rd week, and a slow reduction back to baseline the 4 th
week. Others see 50% for 4 weeks with a quick decline towards the end of the 4 th week, and
even others see relief for longer than 4 weeks! In any of these cases, the results of pain relief
are longer than how long the actual medication (i.e lidocaine) lasts in your system. Within
hours, the lidocaine is metabolized by your body, but the pain-relieving effects are much longer
lasting! This is why we refer to lidocaine infusions as the “ctrl-alt-delete”, “resetting”, or
“rebooting” of your nervous system.
Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined
according to the National Institute of Health. At Desert Pain Specialists, 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 like lidocaine infusions.