Non-Drug Pain Control

Non-Drug Pain Control

There are many pain control techniques that can help you deal with pain even if it does not go away completely. It is important to practice some of the techniques when you do not have pain if possible. This will help the technique work better during an attack of pain. *Be sure to consult with your doctor and/or nurse before beginning any of the following non-drug methods. They can help you choose the method that is best for your type of pain.

  • Acupuncture: The belief that life forces move through the body in specific paths. These paths are called meridians (mer-IH-d-uns). With acupuncture, a needle is put into the meridian that runs to the area where you have pain. This needle blocks the meridian which stops or decreases the pain.
  • Cold and Heat: Both cold and heat can help decrease some types of postop pain. Some types of pain improve best using cold while other types of pain improve most with heat. Caregivers will tell you if cold and/or hot packs will help your pain.
  • Distraction: Teaches you to focus your attention on something other than pain. Playing cards or games, talking and visiting with family may relax you and keep you from thinking about the pain. Watching TV or reading may also be helpful.
  • Guided Imagery: Teaches you to put pictures in your mind that will make the pain less intense. With guided imagery, you learn how to change the way your body senses and responds to pain.
  • Hydrotherapy: Gentle water exercise program. It can strengthen muscles that are not injured and decrease inflammation (pain and swelling). Talk to your physical therapist or caregiver about starting a hydrotherapy program.
  • Massage: Used to help a person become more relaxed. Have someone gently massage your back, shoulders, and neck. Massage can be even more effective if you also use guided imagery or breathing exercises.
  • Music: It does not matter whether you listen to music, sing, hum or play an instrument. Music increases blood flow to the brain and helps you take in more air. It increases energy and helps change your mood. Music may also cause your brain to make endorphins which further decreases pain.
  • Physical therapy: Helpful with pain that was caused by not moving one part of your body or after surgery or an accident. Stretching the muscles and making them stronger around the injured area can help the pain go away.
  • Radiation: May be used to decrease the size of a cancer tumor that is pressing on nerves and causing pain. Radiation can also help decrease bone pain.
  • Relaxation and Biofeedback: Teach your body to respond in a different way to the stress of being in pain. Normally, when pain starts, the body reacts by tensing muscles, faster heartbeat, and higher blood pressure. Your breathing also gets faster and more shallow. These reactions can make the pain worse. Relaxation helps make the pain less by changing these responses. Caregivers may use a biofeedback machine so that you know right away when your body is relaxed.
  • Surgery: May be done to stop chronic pain. Caregivers may do surgery to cut the nerves to the painful area. The goal of this surgery is to stop the pain without losing feeling or movement in the area. In some people the pain can come back after surgery or the pain may even be worse. For these reasons, surgery is usually not considered until all other pain control treatments have been tried.
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation: A nerve stimulation technique that is similar to TENS. The difference is that in SCS an electrode (a metal wire) is put near the spinal cord during surgery. SCS also uses mild, safe electrical signals to help control pain.
  • TENS is short for transcutaneous (trans-q-TAIN-e-us) electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS unit is a portable, pocket-sized, battery-powered device which attaches to the skin. The TENS unit uses mild, safe electrical signals to help control pain.