Medication Summary for Intractable Pain, CRPS/RSD

Nancy Sajben, MD discusses the medication summary for intractable pain (CRPS RSD) as discussed at an RSDSA conferenceThe following blog post was written on 11/6/16 by Nancy Sajben, MD for her website. Shared with permission.

I spoke only briefly this morning at the RSDSA conference but there is so much to add. Most importantly, thanks to RSDSA for helping so many people with CRPS. They fund pain research, they are starting a free children’s camp, and now offer physicians one hour free CME teaching about CRPS.

Holistic view, 36 points – that’s how I view caring for brain and nerves, very similar to the details used by UCLA Alzheimers Research Unit. In June 2015, I posted on their work on memory loss, dementia. We know chronic pain means inflammation in the brain, excess of proinflammatory cytokines. CT scans show memory loss and brain atrophy in those with chronic low back pain.  Can this inflammation lead to Alzheimers? Even if it doesn’t, why not maximize what we know we can do to help brain. As I view it, simply be meticulously detailed in giving the central nervous system (CNS) the best chance to relieve or prevent pain or disease.

Below is a brief list.

To find detail and sometimes depth, check the alphabetical lists on either side column [on Nancy Sajben’s website] until you see the category or tag when I first posted on that. Or simply plow through 7.5 years of detail with references. You do the work to check the side columns as I have no time to embed links below, taken from throughout this site.

For now just a list of medication players that may be strikingly important in trying to bring intractable pain into remission even after 20 years. Yes, even chronic for decades. The list applies to intractable pain of all causes. I omitted listing standard interdisciplinary approaches commonly used by every pain specialist around the world. My patients have failed all those.

Some patients with CRPS combine my medications with ketamine infusions.

For those who remain on opioids, ultra low dose naltrexone (10 to 60 mcg three times daily) can significantly reduce pain, reduce opioid induced hyperalgesia, reduce windup, and thus reduce the dose of opioid needed to give improved relief. Opioids cause pain and trigger pro-inflammatory cytokines that create more pain. I strongly recommend slowly, gently tapering off opioid, and remaining off for 3 weeks before the following is trialed:

  1. Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory. Important. Helps pain, depression. If bone loss is an issue, you will not absorb calcium from food if D is low. Mayo Clinic’s publication in 2012 showed more morphine is needed for pain if D is low. Huge literature of its benefit for depression. First topic I posted on – it is that important.74.
  2. Vitamin B6 can cause burning pain from scalp to toe, a toxic neuropathy. It can be toxic to brain. It is loaded in tons of soft drinks, “energy” drinks, supplements.
  3. MTHFR mutation may be present. Body cannot process  the B12 and folic acid you are eating or taking in supplement. A simple blood test, costly. Treatment is as simple as buying methyl folate and methyl B12 – no prescription needed. Folic acid in particular is profoundly important for one of the major energy cycles in the body. Can cause multiple conditions, some fatal, all from one single cause.
  4. Minocycline 100 mg/day is the dose I use but higher doses could be given. It is used daily for decades for acne. I may prevent spread of CRPS if given before surgery, dental work, even minor procedures. I start 24 hrs before, and continue for days after full recovery from surgery.
  5. Testosterone  in either male or female is depleted by opioids, it may be depleted by stress. Low T is a risk for depression, weakness and osteoporosis.
  6. Naltrexone low dose (LDN) – profoundly important. A glial modulator. Lifelong use.
  7. Dextromethorphan – reduces hyperexcitable glutamate
  8. Oxytocin
  9. Memantine – double the Alzheimers dose for CRPS. Like ketamine, it blocks the NMDA receptor.
  10. Lamotrigine
  11. Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA, PeaPure) a glial modulator, also acts on mast cells. A food supplement. No Rx. Your body makes it. Plants make it. Capsules & cream
  12. Ketamine via nasal spray, under tongue combined with IV or not, works on glutamate-NMDA receptor. Not an essential drug. Where ketamine has stopped working, patients have become pain free after years of CRPS.
  13. Creams combinations, so many. Most of my CRPS pts very much like   Mg++/guai  10% each. You may or may not trial various combinations lido/keto/keta, etc. Numerous. DMSO 50%.
  14. Medical Marijuana (CBD, THC, terpenes) Marijuana saves lives. Entire issue of Science, November 4, 2016, devoted to pain. NAC and alpha lipoic acid are noted by research from the Netherlands.


If it has not burst, treat it like the infection that it is. Surgery may never be needed. I posted details of publications early 2016 with a case report. That young man was being rolled into the OR, instead was discharged 100% better without surgery 2 days later.

Medications target 3 main systems, as discussed at the conference

The opioid receptor – opioids create pain. They trigger glia to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines. Opioid induced hyperalgesia may occur. Cannot be used with low dose naltrexone.

The glutamate NMDA receptor – ketamine, memantine.

Glia, the innate immune system – glial modulators.

Before they see me, my patients have failed all prior therapies even ketamine coma. I view it like football. You have one guy running down the field with one ball. Do you want to win the game? You’ve dealt with this for years. Let’s not prolong it. Hit it with my main choice of meds all at once. Jump on it. What if you get 10% relief – will you even notice 10% after many years of severe pain? But if you get 10% from each of 5 meds, then you are talking 50% relief as a start. Address those 3 main pain systems – even without ketamine – and I have posted a case report after 20 years and 3 suicide attempts before seeing me, she has been pain free for about 4 years as I recall. A surgeon nicked her sciatic nerve when she was 27. Two years ago, pain free, running on her treadmill, she twisted her ankle. She has permanent foot drop from the sciatic nerve injury, but even spraining her ankle did not flare her CRPS. Twenty years of CRPS, pain free for about 4 years. And ultimately, years ago, she was tapered off all the drugs with one exception: LDN lifelong.

Most importantly, I did not have time to relay a very special message from my patient in Brooklyn: “Surround yourself with friends and family who love you. Never give up hope.” She had her first 2 or 3 pain free days this week, as she slowly increases doses of medication. She’s not yet at maximal effect and even then there can be increases. Sending love and courage.


RSD support groups are essential and I am glad to see the RSDSA list of so many throughout the country.

There is so much more. Indeed, at least 36 points discussed on June 2015.



The material on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.
It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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