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Non-invasive pain management techniques

Non-invasive pain management techniques include both medication-free and treatment with medications. Your pain specialist will likely advise you to start treatment with both. Later on, he or she might add minimally invasive treatments, such as joint injections and nerve blocks.

The following techniques are useful in treating both acute (sudden) and chronic (long-lasting) pain. While these techniques can be used alone, they provide better results when combined with several other treatments. Ask your pain specialist for further advice.


Massage may seem like a fun, easy way to reduce soreness and fatigue. However, it can be a treatment in itself.

Massage has multiple benefits:

  • Improved blood flow to the muscles, ligaments, and bones
  • Increase in dopamine, serotonin, and other body chemicals that fight depression
  • A decrease in stress hormones

This treatment is used for:

  1. Swollen limbs – lymphedema (after breast cancer surgery)
  2. Muscle conditions (fibromyalgia, muscle spasm)
  3. Sports injuries (tendinitis, plantar fasciitis)
  4. Whiplash

Click here for further reading on massage

Physical therapy (PT)

PT offers you a guided recovery after serious injuries like stroke, trauma, or surgery. Often, doctors send patients to PT for a gentle and controlled approach to recovery.

Techniques used in PT:

  • Joint and soft tissue work
  • Ultrasound healing
  • Taping/braces
  • Electrical stimulation (TENS)

This treatment is used for:

  1. Fibromyalgia (widespread muscle pain and fatigue)
  2. Swelling in the limbs as a result of cancer
  3. Pelvic pain
  4. Urinary incontinence

Chiropractic treatment

This is a treatment that adjusts the spine (or other joints) by using controlled, rapid force. The goal is to increase the range of motion in a body area that has been injured. Your chiropractor should have a detailed medical history and the necessary X-rays, before starting treatment.

This treatment is used for:

  1. Chronic low-back pain
  2. Muscle and bone pain in the neck or shoulders
  3. Headaches
  4. Hand or foot problems

Hot/cold treatment

Placing heat and cold to your painful area offers a double advantage. While heat relaxes the muscles, cold reduces swelling. You can easily use this treatment in the comfort of your own home.

This treatment helps with:

  1. Herniated disc pain and overlying muscle soreness
  2. Arthritis

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

This is a treatment that uses electrical current to reduce some types of pain. It involves a device, that sends current through skin patches, to the painful area. This can feel like a soothing “electric” sensation or a slight muscle twitch.

This treatment helps people with:

  1. Fibromyalgia
  2. Neuropathic pain (a type of chronic pain)
  3. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS – arm/leg pain, swelling, skin changes, and stiffness)


As part of this ancient Chinese practice, needles are placed through your skin to key points in the body. This is believed to balance energy flow and promote healing. According to Western medicine views, this technique may stimulate nerves and tissues and may release chemicals that fight pain.

This treatment is used for:

  1. Nausea and vomiting (after chemotherapy or surgery)
  2. Headaches
  3. Neck or low back pain
  4. Osteoarthritis

Calming techniques

Calming techniques include meditation, breathing exercises, music therapy, and biofeedback. They work by helping turn your focus away from the pain.

Your reaction to pain is much like your reaction to meeting a bear. You have a “flight or fight” response. First, your body releases adrenaline, a substance that quickly increases blood flow to the heart and muscles. Then, your body shifts to high gear for action. Finally, you become exhausted.

Calming techniques help with:

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Sleep problems


When you are having pain, a gentler exercise might help you strengthen and stretch.

Here are some exercises that help:

  • Water exercises remove the strain on your joints. They burn up to 500 calories per hour and can help with weight loss in people who have arthritis.
  • Tai chi is a Chinese practice that combines relaxation with deep breathing and gentle movements. Studies have found that it improves function in people with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Yoga offers great freedom for people with different levels of function. There are gentle classes like Restorative yoga and more advanced classes like Ashtanga yoga.

Click here for further reading on yoga

Exercise helps patients with:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Fibromyalgia
  3. Migraines
  4. Low back pain

Treatment goals

A good treatment plan focuses on the source of pain, and not just masking the symptoms. Sometimes the source of your pain cannot be undone. Therefore, it helps to add a number of these techniques into your daily routine.

While trying new treatments, keep these goals in mind:

  1. Reduction of your pain symptoms
  2. Staying active
  3. Slowing the loss of function (ability to drive, shop)

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