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What Are Analgesics?

Two bowls of analgesics, doing their thing.

Pronounced “Ah-nuhl-jeez-icks,” this term is used to describe pain-relieving medications, supplements, prescription drugs, and more. There are many different types of analgesics. For example, oral analgesics are taken—you guessed it—orally. Topical analgesics, on the other hand, are applied directly to the skin where areas of pain are most intense.

The key factor here is pain-relieving. To put it plainly: if something does not relieve pain, it does not have analgesic properties.

Is kratom considered an analgesic? In recent years, there have been countless reports of patients turning to natural sources of pain treatment. Look at the successes of the kratom, CBD, or even legal marijuana industries! Many of these plant-based pain supplements are examples of non-narcotic analgesics. They relieve pain without intoxication or a cocktail of undesired side effects.

More on that later. First, we must learn why it is so vital to fight pain in the first place.

Some Key Figures On Pain

There are two primary types of pain in humans: (1) acute pain and (2) chronic pain. Acute pain occurs rapidly and typically goes away on its own. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is defined by months-long bouts of extreme pain. Sufferers of chronic pain often have underlying conditions which exacerbate pain levels.

Chronic pain impacts approximately 50 million Americans, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, 20 million Americans suffer from what we call “high-impact” chronic pain. This type of pain is characterized by interference in everyday activities: work, errands, hobbies, and beyond.

Luckily, humans have been dealing with pain for a long time. As such, we have many pain-fighting medications out there. How do we differentiate them?

Analgesic vs. Anesthetic: What’s The Difference?

We already know that analgesics are defined by their pain-relieving properties. However, anesthetics are another class of medications also defined by an ability to fight pain. What gives?

According to the US government’s National Agricultural Library, “Analgesia is the relief of pain without the loss of consciousness or sensation using analgesics…anesthesia, on the other hand, is the loss of physical sensation with or without loss of consciousness using anesthetics.”

The key difference: sensation. When differentiating analgesics vs. anesthetics, the latter numbs areas of pain. This process works by interfering with nerve signals found throughout your brain and body. Your brain loses the ability to process pain. 

Unfortunately, general anesthesia (a term used to describe the overall use of anesthetics in a medical setting) comes with a variety of side effects. This includes…

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Cold sensations
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Itching
  • Anxiety

Analgesics are a bit different. These pain-relieving medications are characterized by a lack of sensational effects. For example, kratom products have become popular ethnobotanical supplements in recent years for their distinguishingly few side effects and mild body effects. It does not bring about a loss of consciousness or intense “high” like alcohol or marijuana (the latter is also an analgesic by some scientific accounts).

Types of Analgesics

As we mentioned earlier, there are various types of analgesics: oral analgesics, topical analgesics, inhalant analgesics, etc.

But according to clinical research, clinicians instead group analgesics into three broad categories:

  1. Non-opioid analgesics (things like acetaminophen)
  2. Adjuvant analgesics (medications not originally intended to treat pain but do so regardless)
  3. Opioids (which accounted for 70.6% of all drug overdose deaths in 2019, according to the CDC)

We suggest a fourth category: natural analgesics. This category would officially include plant-based, non-synthetic pain medications or supplements known to fight pain without a loss of consciousness or sensation like opiates.

This is nowhere near a new concept! Humans have been using natural means of pain relief for millennia. Even kratom enjoys a rich history as a pain-fighting plant in Southeast Asia, where Mitragyna speciosa trees grow amid lush tropical backdrops.

Examples of Other Non-Narcotic Analgesics

Kratom products aren’t alone. For those uninterested in pain treatments like opioid-based pain pills, there is recourse. From acute to chronic pain, Mother Nature always has your back. Plus, there are a variety of healthy personal habits you can practice to improve your overall pain management.

Regular Exercise is one of the best gifts you give yourself! At any age, consistent working out has shown to reduce pain levels. This includes difficult-to-treat pains as well: lower back pain, pregnancy-related pain, arthritic pain, and more. According to the University of Southern California, exercise also reduces pain by “building muscle strength and flexibility, reducing fatigue, reducing pain sensitivity, and reducing inflammation.”

NSAIDs, which fall under the category of non-opioid analgesics above, stand for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Common brand name NSAIDs include Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, Bayer, and more. These pain medications can be bought over-the-counter at just about any grocery or drugstore in the US. However, consult your doctor if you would like to take these analgesics daily, as long-term use can badly affect the liver.

Physical Therapy allows you access to pain experts with all the best techniques for fighting chronic pain. Physical therapists are often equipped with high-end exercise and stretching equipment, ultrasound technology, deep-muscle massagers, and much more. Over time, physical therapy addresses the root cause of pain, alleviating symptoms over time and keeping symptoms from returning.

Cannabis has lately received a lot of medical attention in the scientific and healthcare communities. According to researchers, cannabinoids like CBD and THC—the “active ingredients” of hemp and marijuana plants—are now believed to effectively fight “Chronic, neuropathic, and possible inflammatory pain.”

Analgesics in Conclusion

Treatments for pain have been around as long as pain itself. As a species, we strive to find new and effective ways to fight both acute and chronic pain. However, it’s up to you to decide which types of analgesics work best for you.

All of us are unique. As such, it’s important that you try a variety of different pain relief methods before deciding on an appropriate course of treatment. The type of analgesic (or other non-opioid alternatives to pain relief in general) you choose may also be affected by whether or not your pain is felt internally or externally, whether it’s centralized in the nerves or the muscles, or something else specific to your case.

With that said, we are entering a new and exciting era of pain management! With a newfound interest in botanical supplements like kratom, we’ll continue to learn more about this plant than ever before. Studies are underway to validate the pain-relieving properties of the kratom plant and its constituents. It’s only a matter of time before we begin classifying this and other plants as effective analgesics in their own right!