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There are many ways to manage pain

About Pain Management

There are many ways to manage pain. Each option generally has the goal of providing relief of pain while managing risks and adverse events. These options range from non-medication interventions (e.g., acupuncture or massage) to over-the-counter and prescription medications. Often, pain management requires a multifaceted approach integrating different treatments to meet individual patients’ needs.

Working with a healthcare professional is the optimal way to determine a treatment plan for pain management. Treatment should begin with a comprehensive assessment, followed by creation of a care plan that can evolve over time to address the full range of effects pain may have on a patient. Additionally, the National Pain Strategy recommends improvements in pain self-management programs that can help patients improve their knowledge, skills and confidence to prevent, reduce and cope with pain, and minimize treatment risks and adverse events.1

Integrated Pain Care

Managing pain involves a care team working directly with the patient in pain. Together, healthcare professionals can recommend a variety of interventions and strategies that result in an individualized treatment program for their patients. A patient’s care team can include: physicians; nurses; physical therapists; recreational therapists; pharmacists; social workers and others who support them.2

The following are examples of potential treatment approaches for pain. Please note, the validity of these approaches may vary and inclusion below is not meant to imply equality.

Acupuncture and Acupressure


This therapy is believed to prompt the body to release endorphins that can help block pain signals from being delivered to the brain.3

Biofeedback Therapy

This technique works by attaching electrodes to the patient’s skin that measure information about physical characteristics such as heart rate, brain and muscle activity or skin temperature. The electrodes project onto a monitor that indicates when the patient is under stress. A biofeedback therapist assists in relaxation exercises that can help control different body functions to reduce pain.4

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

A form of psychotherapy in which strategies are implemented to change the patterns between thoughts, emotions and behavior in response to pain and to increase self-efficacy for pain management.5

Therapeutic Exercise

Therapeutic exercises – from stretching to strength training and cardiovascular conditioning – are thought to be beneficial for restoring flexibility, strength, endurance, function, range of motion and can alleviate discomfort.6

Massage Therapy

Soft tissue manipulation using the hands or a mechanical device through a variety of specific methods. The pressure and intensity employed by different massage techniques varies widely.7

Multimodal Approaches

Includes pharmacologic therapy, psychological therapy, physical and occupational therapy and procedural treatments.8

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen are a common pain treatment. These drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen and can be used to relieve mild pain and reduce inflammation and swelling.9

Physical Therapy

Techniques to help increase the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability.10

Prescription Pain Medications

Some pain medications are available only with a prescription from a healthcare professional. These include some NSAIDS, muscle relaxants, antiepileptics and opioid analgesics. Prescription pain medications should be used as directed by a healthcare professional, as they are associated with serious risks and side effects.11,12

Relaxation Techniques

Techniques to help reduce stress and muscle tension. Meditation and yoga are common; while meditation can help refocus the mind, yoga can strengthen muscles and improve flexibility.13

Trigger Point Injections

Some adults may have trigger points – a special type of tender area within the muscle. For those who do, injections of a local anesthetic or steroid may help relieve pain in these areas.14

About Pain Management Reference

1 NIH. National Pain Strategy. Accessed 08.24.17.
2 ACPA. Pain Management Programs. Accessed 06.20.17.
3 Practical Pain Management. The Role of Acupuncture in Treating Chronic Pain. Accessed 10.19.17.
4 Medical News Today. What is Biofeedback Therapy and Who Can Benefit? Accessed 06.20.17.
5 American Psychological Association. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Individuals With Chronic Pain. Accessed 10.19.17.
9 MedlinePlus. Over-the-counter pain relievers. Accessed 10.19.17.
10 American Physical Therapy Association. Role of a Physical Therapist. Accessed 06.21.17.
11 ACPA. Resource Guide To Chronic Pain Management. Accessed 05.04.18.
12 Mayo Clinic. Treating pain: Conventional medical care. Accessed 05.04.2018
13 HealthLine. Chronic Pain Treatment Options. Accessed 06.21.17.
14 AAFP. Trigger Points: Diagnosis and Management. Accessed 10.19.17.