Alternatives To Prescription Pain Management

June 1, 2023

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Whether you’re recovering from an injury or dealing with chronic pain, chances are, you’ll need pain relief at some point in your life.

Every year, millions of people take prescription pain killers, many of which are opioids that can have severe side effects or increase addiction risk. Although prescription pain medicines can be useful for some, you may want to start with over-the-counter or at-home treatment options. Consider these alternatives to prescription pain medications.

Over-the-counter medicines

Sometimes, ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be all you need to get some relief. These medicines are often especially helpful if you’re dealing with short-term (acute) pain, such as during surgery or injury recovery. Some people with chronic pain take over-the-counter pain medicines, either on their own or along with other treatment options.

Physical therapy

A physical therapist prescribes exercises that help you increase flexibility, strength and overall function. They also teach you how to move to lower your chance of injury. Physical therapy may also involve deep-muscle massage, ultrasound therapy or other techniques.

Massage therapy or acupuncture

Some people find pain relief from alternative medicine. Acupuncture uses very small needles inserted into specific places in your skin. This can interrupt pain signals and decrease pain symptoms. Many people with chronic pain also benefit from getting regular deep tissue massages.

Injections and nerve stimulators

Your healthcare provider may offer in-office treatments such as steroid injections to lower pain and inflammation. Steroid injections often work quickly but you may need several injections per year. People with chronic, constant pain may benefit from implantable devices that disrupt pain signals between nerves. These treatments typically involve wearing the device for a trial period and then having a short outpatient procedure to place the device beneath your skin, if desired.

At-home treatments and lifestyle changes

There are several tools you can practice at home to decrease pain. You may try hot and cold therapy, where you rotate applying hot and cold temperatures to the muscles that are in pain. Regular exercise and stretching are important for keeping chronic pain at bay. Your healthcare provider may also recommend relaxation techniques, breathing exercises or meditation. Eating anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens or walnuts may also help, especially if you experience chronic pain due to a condition such as inflammatory arthritis.

When to see a doctor

If you suffer from chronic pain, a healthcare provider can help. You can start by talking with your primary care provider about pain management options. If needed, you may get a referral to a pain management specialist, a healthcare provider who specializes in chronic pain and pain relief.

If you experience pain that lasts longer than expected, schedule an appointment with your primary healthcare provider. You may need treatments to target the root cause of pain and help you heal. Don’t have a primary care doctor? Find an Adventist Health provider near you.