In Pain

Updated September 2018

Many people go through life without feeling any relief from their pain symptoms. The reason behind the pain does not necessarily matter, but it does matter that this chronic pain can sometimes leave you in a state of dysfunction.

There are many pain killers (both over the counter and prescription) that can help to manage pain, but these lead to long term consequences.  In fact, treating chronic pain with medications only can make you worse in the long term.

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What do you do when your prescribed pain medicine isn’t enough?

There are plenty of pain management options other than pain medications. These can replace or complement the medications to help you better manage your pain and get you back to living your life. On the plus side, these alternative methods don’t have side effects like medications. These alternative methods vary and may not work for everyone, but don’t lose hope. If the first one you try doesn’t work for you, try something different.

Eight Alternative Methods for Pain Management

Here are just eight of the methods that you can choose from to help alleviate pain. This list is not exhaustive and there are more options to choose from.

1.  Do something to release endorphins.  More often than not, endorphins are released during physical activity. An endorphin is a natural chemical in your body that produces pleasure and reduces pain and stress. There are some activities that can be done through varying levels of chronic pain, and by doing these activities you have the potential to increase your relaxation and satisfaction. The endorphins not only relieve pain but help to give you the ability to move along with your day. If you are wondering what kind of exercise would be best for you, speak with your family doctor, physiatrist, chiropractor, or physical therapist.

2.  Soak in warm water. Allowing your body to soak in warm or hot water can help to relax your muscles and release tension. This relaxation helps to distract your mind from the pain and relieve it.

3.  Use essential oils or aromatherapy. Essential oils can be calming and are meant to bring you a sense of peace. They help to relax the tensions in your mind and body. They have a calming and cooling effect when put into the air or onto the skin. Using essential oils in whatever way you believe is helpful, whether that be aromatherapy or applying them to the skin, has the potential to relax you and relieve your pain. Do not use essential oils if aromas give you headaches or cause irritation.

4.  Use heat therapy. Heat can often relieve the pain in an aching back or an aching muscle. Simply apply heat to the area that is pained. The heat will stimulate better blood flow to the area, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the damaged area for healing purposes.

5.  Massage Therapy and Stretching: Massage therapy and stretching help to loosen the tissues and muscles in your body. Both have been found to relax the body and relieve stress and pain.

6.  Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is more often than not the main contributing factor of chronic pain. To reduce this inflammation, a simple solution is to apply something cold (like an ice pack) to the pained area. This helps to relieve the pain as it cools the skin and slows the nerves.

7.  Dry needling. Dry needling is becoming more popular to treat muscle pain and tightness.  This is not acupuncture.  Dry needling uses small skin needles similar to acupuncture needles, but the method of treatment is different. It is offered by trained physical therapists, physicians, and physician assistants depending on state regulations.

8.  Soft Tissue Instrument Treatment: This also is becoming more popular among physical therapists to treat muscle pain and tightness.  This method uses tools that are laser-produced to create a specific type of edge.  This edge will not break the skin but will help break adhesions and relax the muscles.

Where can you find support for chronic pain?

Chronic pain is not easy to deal with. One thing that can help you in handling this chronic pain is finding support. It can be lonely dealing with these problems but having a support system can a long way to making your pain feel less overwhelming. Support groups can be found online or you may be given recommendations from your doctor.

For more information on alternative pain management methods, please visit our Back and Spine Care page. If you would like information on where you can find support or a rehabilitation center for chronic pain, please browse our chronic pain management rehab options.

About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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