Medication can be delivered in many ways, from injections to pills to skin patches and even rectal suppositories. One other method of delivering pain relief is intrathecally. This means that medication is delivered directly to the area in the spine that is causing the pain. People who have severe, chronic pain may be taking opioids like morphine. However, up to 20 percent of patients can't tolerate or can't take drugs like morphine. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting and dizziness. By using the intrathecal method, doctors can usually give lower doses and the drug bypasses the stomach, which may help reduce the nausea and vomiting.
A patient who is having an intrathecal drug delivery will have a small catheter, or tube, inserted into the spinal area where the pain is located. A pump is attached and medication is delivered constantly, avoiding the peaks and valleys that can happen when people take oral medications.