Globally, over 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain. In the U.S., chronic pain is the number one cause of long-term disability. It is also said to affect more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), doctors write 259 million prescriptions for pain killers each year. Though not the main contributing factor, chronic pain has been linked to the opioid epidemic currently affecting the country.
The Science of Pain and The Human Body
The experience of pain is undoubtedly unpleasant. However, as much as we would like to erase its existence, we can’t. It plays a critical role as one of the body’s most important communication tools.
Pain is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong. Without it we would be unable to to protect ourselves from harm or be alerted to things going wrong, especially inside of us that we cannot physically see, but that we need to address.
Pain is detected via receptors located throughout the body. Pain receptors are designed to react to three types of stimuli – mechanical, thermal and chemical. Mechanical receptors are be triggered by trauma or alterations to body tissues, tumors, muscle spams, blockage of a body duct among others. Thermal receptors are triggered by exposure to either extreme heat or cold. Chemical receptors can be triggered by exposure to either external chemicals or by the release of internal chemicals following trauma or inflammation (e.g. serotonin, lactic acid, dopamine etc.)
When these receptors are triggered a signal is sent to the brain via the spinal cord for interpretation. Once the signal reaches the brain, its processed by the thalamus. It sends out three signals in response. One signal goes to the somatosensory cortex that is responsible for physical sensation. Another goes to the frontal cortex that in charge of thinking, and the third goes to limbic system which is responsible for our emotions.
Types of Pain
Pain can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute pain comes on suddenly and lasts for a brief period of time. Chronic pain is ongoing lasting longer than six months and is often the result of nerve damage. It also tends to be resistant to medical treatment.
There are two types of chronic pain – inflammatory nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. Inflammatory nociceptive pain is the result of injury to the skin, muscles, visceral organs, joints, tendons, or bones. Neuropathic pain is caused by injury to the peripheral and somatosensory nervous system. In some cases, acute pain can also develop into chronic pain.
Chronic pain is highly disruptive to one’s quality of life. It can cause frustration, anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, diminished job performance, lower motivation, communication breakdowns with loved ones and poor self esteem among others.
Opioids are often prescribed for the treatment of severe acute and chronic pain as they are the strongest and most effective analgesics available. They however come with a higher potential for abuse, dependence, or addiction. Especially when used over an extended period of time.
What is Kratom
Kratom is a tropical evergreen tree, relative of the coffee plant and of Southeast Asian origin. The leaves contain over 25 alkaloids in addition to flavonoids, terpenoid saponins, polyphenols, and various glycosides.
This combination serves up an impressive list of psychoactive medicinal and therapeutic effects including analgesia, stimulation, sedation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-depressant, and nootropic among others.
How Kratom Helps with Pain Relief
The main psychoactive components found in the leaves of the Kratom plant are the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Both have analgesic properties although the latter only accounts for roughly 2 % of the plant’s alkaloid content. However, it is said to be the major contributor towards the plants’ analgesic properties.
Kratom interacts with the mu (μ), kappa (κ), and delta (δ) opioid receptors and can repress pain sensitivity. It can also increase the body’s natural release of endorphins. This increases positive emotions and limits negative feelings generated by pain.
This plant can also provide relief for symptoms associated with being in constant pain like fatigue, lack of focus, and anxiety among others. A survey conducted on Kratom users showed they were able to find relief from pain brought about by the the following conditions
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Back pain
- Acute Pain
- Lupus and other autoimmune diseases
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
- Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Best Kratom for Pain Relief
Kratom is available in multiple strains. The alkaloid profiles of these strains vary depending on the geographical region they grow in and the method of extraction. This ultimately dictates the benefits associated with a particular strain.
The following strains have been identified as the most effective ones to use for pain relief.
1. Bali Kratom
Bali Kratom is a combination of Borneo and Sumatra strains and has a high content of the pain relieving alkaloid 7-hydroxymitragynine. It is a potent strain that users have found delivers both pain relief and a stimulating boost. It is available in all three vein colors – red, green, and white strains.
For pain relief, the Red vein is the best choice. In addition to being potent, it’s quick acting (5-10 minutes) and effects can last between 5-7 hours. It does also have a strong sedating effect so is best taken prior to going to sleep. Users also report that wobbles are common when using this strain. This is to be expected of potent strains. These can be avoided consuming moderate doses or by blending it with another strain.
2. Maeng Da Kratom
Maeng Da is one of the more unique Kratom options. Its uniqueness stems from the fact that it did not start out as naturally occurring variety. It is said to have been specifically bred to have higher concentrations of Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. This combination of alkaloids makes this strain one of the stronger varieties currently available. Unlike Bali Kratom, this strain is more stimulating than sedating so can be taken during the day.
Red vein Maeng Da is the strongest of all the three vein colors available. Since this is more of a stimulating than a sedating strain it can be used as a day time painkiller. Users use it for fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, cancer or chronic lower back pain.
3. Malay Kratom
Malay (short for Malaysian) Kratom has lower concentrations of the alkaloid mitragynine. its a good option if you are experieinc ony minor pain. It produces strong pain relief effects but they are not as sedating as Borneo or Bali strains. It is a good option for those whose pain is affecting their productivity.
The go to vein color for pain relief is green. Green vein Malay which may also be referred to as Super Green Malay, combines analgesia effects with stimulation, anxiety relief, focus and mood enhancement. Its effects are long lasting, up to 8 hours. Some users prefer to blend this stain with Red vein Maeng Da to make it more potent.
4. Borneo Kratom
Borneo Kratom has higher concentrations of 7-hydroxymitragynine than Thai and Maeng Da strains. Users experience both pain relieving and relaxing effects making this a good choice for those whose pain is causing them to experience anxiety, inflammation, migraines and pain in muscles, bones or joints.
Red vein Borneo offers maximum relaxation effects of the three vein colors. If you want more of a balance between sedative and stimulating effects then Green vein Borneo strain is a better option. White vein Borneo offers pain relief with an energizing kick. Its a good option to take early in the day if your pain is keeping you from getting this done
The effects of Kratom are dose dependent. In general, low doses stimulate while higher doses sedate. As people have different tolerance levels and dosing is also influenced by things like age, weight and gender among others, identifying your ideal dose gives you a better chance of getting the relief you seek.
- Less than 2 grams – Mild yet noticeable stimulating and mood enhancing effects. Good for beginners or those with a low threshold for Kratom and experiencing only subtle pain symptoms.
- 2 – 4 grams – Moderate dose that delivers a balance of pain relief, stimulation, euphoria, and sedation. Most users find this range sufficient for treating a wide range of pain related symptoms.
- 5 – 8 grams – Extremely strong dose producing substantial sedating and euphoric effects. May be used to treat severe chronic pain.
Doses higher than 8 grams cause intense sedation, nausea, or constipation and should be taken with extreme caution.
How to Improve Your Kratom Experience
- Take on an empty stomach when possible for heightened and more potent effects. If this is not possible you may also use a potentiator like grapefruit juice to hasten the effects.
- Rotate through the recommended strains to avoid e developing dependence or building tolerance to any particular strain.
- When experimenting to find your optimal dose, always start small (less than 2 grams).
- Buy your products from a certified vendor to avoid consuming sub standard Kratom which may contain contaminants that cause harmful side effects.