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Analgesia means literally without pain. In medicine it is used to describe the methods used to reduce pain without the loss of consciousness, most frequently drug-related. However, a variety of techniques can be used to relieve pain:
- prevention, e.g. pre-emptive analgesia
- treat primary cause, e.g. surgery
- inhibit the peripheral generation of pain signals, e.g. NSAIDs
- inhibit peripheral neural transmission, e.g. local anaesthetic
- stimulate inhibitory mechanisms in the spinal cord, e.g. acupuncture
- inhibit ascending transmission in the spinal cord, e.g. anterolateral cordotomy
- stimulate supraspinal inhibitory pathways, e.g. opioids
- change the emotional content of pain, e.g. psychotropic drugs
- alter behavioural response to pain, e.g. conditioning
Broadly speaking analgesic drugs may be subdivided according to their strengths into mild, moderate and potent.
Last reviewed 01/2018