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Non-pharmacological Pain Management Therapies For Adults


What are non-pharmacological therapies for pain?

Non-pharmacological therapies are ways to decrease pain in addition to medicine. Each person may respond to these therapies differently.

Why is pain control important?

If pain is not treated, it can decrease your appetite and make it difficult for you to sleep. You may feel that you lack energy or the ability to do things. Pain can also affect your mood and relationships with others. Non-pharmacological therapies may help decrease your pain or give you more control over your pain. This can improve your quality of life.

What therapies are normally used with medicine to help control pain?

  • Heat: Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat to the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.
  • Massage therapy: This may help relax tight muscles and decrease pain.
  • Physical therapy: This teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This is a portable, pocket-sized, battery-powered device that attaches to your skin. It is usually placed over the area of pain. It uses mild, safe electrical signals to help control pain.
  • Spinal cord stimulation (SCS): An electrode is implanted near your spinal cord during a simple procedure. The electrode uses mild, safe electrical signals to relax the nerves that cause your pain.

What other things may help control or reduce pain?

  • Aromatherapy: This is a way of using scents to relax, relieve stress, and decrease pain. Aromatherapy uses oils, extracts, or fragrances from flowers, herbs, and trees. They may be inhaled or used during massages, facials, body wraps, and baths.
  • Guided imagery: This teaches you ways to put pictures in your mind that will make pain less intense. It may help you learn how to change the way your body senses and responds to pain.
  • Laughter: Laughter may help you let go of stress, anger, fear, depression, and hopelessness.
  • Music: This may help increase energy levels and improve your mood. It may help reduce pain by triggering your body to release endorphins. These are natural body chemicals that decrease pain.
  • Biofeedback: This teaches your body to respond differently to the stress of being in pain. Caregivers may use a biofeedback machine to help you know when your body is relaxed.
  • Self-hypnosis: This is a way to direct your attention to something other than your pain. For example, you might repeat a positive statement about ignoring the pain or seeing the pain in a positive way.
  • Acupuncture: This therapy uses very thin needles to balance energy channels in the body. This is thought to help reduce pain and other symptoms.

Where can I find more information?

  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH
    Information Clearinghouse
    PO Box 7923
    Gaithersburg , MD 20898
    Phone: 1- 888 - 6446226
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your pain does not get better, or you have new pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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