Kratom For Pain Management

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20.4% of adult Americans reported chronic pain. 7.4% of respondents claimed that their pain substantially limited their work activities or personal lives. 

In general, long-term pain doesn’t tend to resolve itself. Rather, patients must find ways to manage their symptoms well enough to lead a normal life. Family doctors and pain management specialists can prescribe pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments to help patients live with long-term pain.

Common Treatments for Long-Term Pain

We can put treatments for conditions that cause substantial pain on a day-in, day-out basis into three categories: daily medication, non-pharmacological, and interventional treatments. 

Non-Pharmacological Treatment

Among other things, exercises, lifestyle and diet changes, and alternative modalities such as electro-nerve stimulation and acupuncture fall under this category. Even if patients can’t eliminate their discomfort through non-pharmacological treatments, these changes still help people manage their symptoms. 

Unlike many medications, non-pharmacological treatments rarely work instantly. Rather, they usually require patients to perform them regularly to get optimal pain-killing benefits in return.


Is Kratom a Good Option for Chronic Pain?

If we had to fit kratom in one of the three categories above, it’d technically fit under the non-pharmacological category. Even though kratom has a pharmacological effect on the body, it’s legally considered a supplement.

Kratom contains more than three dozen alkaloids. In simple terms, they’re organic compounds that occur naturally and contain at least one nitrogen atom. Many have pharmacological effects

Morphine and codeine, for example, are two wildly popular alkaloids. Naturally produced by the poppy plant, humans have used these naturally occurring opioids for thousands of years as painkillers, among other reasons. 

Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, primarily contains the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-OHM). Although there’s debate over whether these compounds should be classified as opioids, these compounds bind to the brain’s opioid receptors as partial agonists. Despite the fact partial agonists bind to and activate opioid receptors, they don’t stimulate them as well as full agonists. 

In terms of opioids, full agonists include hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), and morphine. Partial agonists include buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Butrans) and tramadol. Buprenorphine and tramadol are known for having little to no recreational potential while still reducing symptoms of discomfort. 


So — Is It a Good Option?

Thanks to the opioid epidemic, American doctors have reduced their opioid prescriptions en masse. This has caught countless chronic pain sufferers in its midst, leaving them unable to find sufficient relief from most doctors. 

Understandably, most pain patients refuse to turn to illicit opioids. After all, considering illegal drugs can’t be regulated or prescribed by doctors, taking them can be dangerous. It can also result in criminal charges.

Unlike prescription opioids, kratom is legal and available to all adults across most of the United States. 


Is Kratom Safe for Long-Term Management of Chronic Pain

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research on kratom. Even though one mid-2020 study found that kratom significantly improved pain tolerance, it concluded that the medical establishment still needed rigorous research on its analgesic potential and its safety profile. 

If you look for information about the long-term safety of kratom, you’ll find countless reports about kratom being unsafe, whether that be for one-time use or everyday, long-term use. Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s lead, many medical and health-related organizations have condemned kratom as worthless and inappropriate for treating pain. 

Ultimately, there’s not enough peer-reviewed, unbiased research to answer questions about kratom’s long-term safety. On the bright side, however, you’ll find petitions with tens of thousands of responses to keep kratom legal. You’ll also find countless anecdotes in which long-term pain sufferers swear by kratom as an effective way to manage pain.


What Is the Best Strain of Kratom for Pain Relief?

With cannabis, breeders can cross-pollinate plants with different characteristics, grow them to maturity, and test them all within a few months. On the other hand, since kratom is a tree that takes many years to mature, rapid cross-breeding simply isn’t possible.

Also, since kratom only recently gained widespread popularity, there hasn’t been enough time for people to cross-breed kratom. Further, considering most kratom grown comes from wild trees deep in the Indonesian jungle, it’s safe to assume that very, very few “true” strains of kratom exist.

However, you’ll find many different varieties of kratom on the market. Vendors get different varieties by blending kratom leaves that have different characteristics together. Things like date of harvest, leaf maturity, tree maturity, drying methods, and curing techniques are thought to make kratom leaves have different feelings. 

In general, look for dark-colored varieties. Consumers typically report that red and brown varieties have the best pain-killing effects.

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