Analgesia vs. Anesthesia

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  • 0:03 Alike but Different
  • 0:48 What Is Analgesia?
  • 2:13 What Is Anesthesia?
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

If you're confused as to the difference between analgesia and anesthesia, this lesson explains everything for you once and for all in a clear way. You'll learn what they are as well as examples of what drugs are used for each.

Alike but Different

Have you ever had a joint that hurt, such as your knee? Do you recall what you took to relieve the pain? It may have been an over-the-counter drug, such as ibuprofen. But if you had to have surgery on that knee, ibuprofen would not have been enough to get you through the surgery; for that, you'd need something much stronger.

Now, do you recall what happened the last time you had a surgical procedure performed? You were likely given an injection of something that made you fall asleep pretty quickly. Then, a tube was inserted into your windpipe while a gas was turned on to keep you unconscious during surgery.

These are very different procedures with quite different purposes. One is called analgesia, and the other is called anesthesia. Let's define and delineate them now.

What Is Analgesia?

Analgesia means the inability to sense pain. That's the really easy definition of it, but let's be a little more specific. In medicine, analgesia is a neurologic state or a pharmacologically induced state whereupon a painful stimulus is mitigated in part or in full. Meaning, the pain relief is at least partial, or it may be complete.

What I must emphasize for you is that analgesia refers to pain relief or the inability to sense pain without a loss of consciousness. You will find out that this is very different from anesthesia, although the two terms are, in part, related and often confused.

With analgesia alone, you are fully awake when you are given a pure analgesic that has no sedative properties. However, many pain relievers do have sedative properties that may make you drowsy, sleepy, or even unconscious.

The word analgesia comes from the prefix of 'an-,' which means without, and the suffix of '-algesia,' which means sensitivity to pain or a condition of sensitivity to pain. Thus, by just its roots alone, the word only implies without sensitivity to pain.

Some analgesics - drugs that cause analgesia - that have few to no sedative properties when used as intended and those that you may have heard of include:

  • Acetaminophen, found in Tylenol
  • Naproxen, the main component of Aleve
  • Ibuprofen, found in Advil
  • Lidocaine, the stuff your dentist injects before pulling your tooth

What Is Anesthesia?

Remember how I just said that analgesia provides pain relief without loss of consciousness? I hope so. Please remember that.

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