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Non-pharmacological Pain Management Therapies For Children


There are a number of therapies in addition to medicine that can decrease your child's pain. Your child's healthcare provider will help you choose therapies that are suitable for your child. Each treatment has advantages and may work best for certain age groups. You may need training when the therapy involves your help in guiding your child through exercises.


Follow up with your child's healthcare provider or pain specialist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Therapies 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 your child's muscles and decrease pain.
  • Physical therapy: This therapy helps your child with exercises to improve movement and strength, and decrease pain.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This is a portable, pocket-sized, battery-powered device that attaches to your child's skin. It is usually placed over the area of pain. It uses mild, safe electrical signals to help control pain.

Other things that may help control or reduce your child's pain:

  • Biofeedback: This helps your child's body respond differently to the stress of being in pain. Your child's healthcare provider may use a biofeedback machine to help him know when his body is relaxed. This may help your child feel more control over his pain.
  • Positive reinforcement: This involves praising your child for being brave during a procedure or surgery, or while healing from an illness. Rewards, like toys, games, or stickers, may also be used.
  • Relaxation exercises: Teach your child to breathe in deeply until his stomach rises a bit and then breathe out slowly. To relax his muscles, teach your child to tense up his muscles and then relax them. Guide him through this exercise starting from his foot muscles, slowly going up to his leg, body, arms, and head.
  • Distraction: Help your child learn to focus his attention on something other than pain. Distraction includes activities such as painting, playing board or video games, or watching TV. Visiting with friends or playing with animals may also be a form of distraction.
  • Guided imagery: This teaches your child to put pictures in his mind that will make pain less intense. It may help him learn how to change the way his body senses and responds to pain.
  • Music: This may help lift your child's energy levels and mood. It may help reduce pain by triggering the release of endorphins. These are natural body chemicals that decrease pain. Music may help take your child's mind off his pain. Help your child pick songs that make him happy, calm, or relaxed. You may play his favorite songs just before a procedure or when he is in pain.

For more information:

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

Contact your child's healthcare provider or pain specialist if:

  • Your child is tense and unable to relax because of his condition.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child is sad, depressed, or not able to cope with his pain or illness.
  • Your child's pain does not get better, or he has new pain.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.