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Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

Pain Relief: Common Methods for Managing Pain

An elderly man holding his shoulder and elbow because of pain

Pain can range from mild to debilitating, which can greatly impact the quality of life. It occurs for various reasons, and some may quickly go away while others are persistent. Thus, pain relief is an essential aspect for people dealing with acute or chronic ailments. Fortunately, there are various methods for managing pain. Individuals may use electrical stimulation, medication, and exercise as primary treatment methods. However, several alternative therapies can also help, such as yoga, music, and massage.

Sudden injury, post-surgery, and underlying illnesses are some of the common causes of pain. It could affect various parts of the body, hindering individuals from doing their regular activities. Hence, effective pain management is crucial. Understanding how they work is the first step in finding relief. People may also find relief with one method or a combination of strategies. This comprehensive guide will explore the top methods of pain management and their considerations.

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Electrical Stimulation for Pain Relief

Electrical stimulation is a popular method of natural pain relief. It is a process of using electrical impulses to reduce pain. One prevalent type is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). This therapy works by overriding the nervous system with electrical pulses, blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. It can also trigger the release of natural pain relievers called endorphins.

Another type is Electrical Muscle Stimulation or EMS. This therapy uses stronger currents than TENS, which can effectively target key muscle groups. EMS aims to induce involuntary muscle contractions for strengthening, toning, or re-education of weakened muscles. In addition, it can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation of sore muscles. As a result, it helps reduce pain and increase the range of motion.

More electrical stimulation therapies are available, such as Interferential Current Therapy (IFC) and Russian Stimulation. Each kind operates on different frequency levels to target specific nerves or muscle fibres. It is essential for individuals to consult with a healthcare professional for advice on determining the most appropriate electrotherapy method for their condition.

Benefits of TENS

  • Pain alleviation: TENS can provide immediate therapeutic effects by reducing pain intensity and discomfort.
  • Non-invasive: It is a painless method that does not harm the skin or require intrusive procedures.
  • Drug-free: It is a 100% natural approach, minimising reliance on medications and their associated side effects.
  • Portability: TENS machines are compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry and use anywhere.
  • Safety: TENS therapy is low-risk. It is safe for most individuals, including pregnant women and the elderly.
  • Versatility: TENS machines have adjustable settings, allowing customisation of the intensity and frequency of electrical impulses to cater to different needs.

A woman holding her pained neck

OTC Medications for Pain Relief

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are often the first line of treatment for pain. They are affordable and readily available to consumers without a prescription. OTC medicines are a convenient option for managing mild-to-moderate pain and aches. There are also minimal risks involved in taking them. However, individuals should follow the dosage instructions to avoid adverse side effects.

It is vital to understand the OTC options to find the most suitable medication for a specific type of pain. A common type deals with inflammation, while others focus on reducing fever. Additionally, they can have fast effects, typically within 15 to 30 minutes after intake.

An essential consideration of taking OTC drugs is to follow the recommended dosage on the medication label. They are suitable for short-term pain relief but should be avoided for long-term use. Chronic use of OTC pain medication could lead to kidney and liver damage. Moreover, if these medicines do not work, it is important to consult with a health professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Types of OTC Pain Medicines

There are two main types of OTC pain relievers: acetaminophen and Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Also known as paracetamol, acetaminophen helps treat mild pain and fever. It works on the central nervous system to reduce pain signals. In addition, it is often recommended for headaches, muscle aches, and period pain.

NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, can help with inflammation and pain caused by conditions such as arthritis, abdominal pains, migraines, and more. They work by blocking enzymes that cause swelling. NSAIDs are available in various forms, including tablets, topical creams, and patches. Taking NSAIDs occasionally rather than regularly can help prevent side effects.

A woman experiencing back pain while in bed

Prescription Medications for Pain Relief

Prescription medications are often necessary if OTC drugs do not provide adequate pain relief. They are stronger forms of painkillers and are often suitable for severe or chronic pain. A common type of prescription medicine is opioids. It works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and the body to reduce the perception of pain.

Another type of medication is muscle relaxants. They help alleviate pain caused by painful and tight muscles. They work in two different ways. One type is antispasmodics, which help reduce muscle spasms. Another type is a central nervous system depressant. It produces a sedative effect, preventing the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. As a result, it relaxes the muscles and reduces discomfort.

Furthermore, tricyclic antidepressants and anticonvulsants are drugs mainly for depression, anxiety disorders, and seizures. However, they can also help manage chronic nerve pain, fibromyalgia, and gastrointestinal and pelvic pain. They work by increasing certain neurotransmitters to block pain signals. It is crucial to follow the dosage instructions when taking prescription medications.

Is There a Risk of Addiction?

Prescription drugs have a high risk of addiction and dependency. In particular, overuse or misuse of opioid medicine can be habit-forming. It can also lead to the development of increased tolerance, requiring higher doses to attain the same effects. Additionally, muscle relaxants have a potential for abuse.

On the other hand, antidepressants are generally not addictive, but abrupt cessation can have withdrawal symptoms. Overall, misuse of the drugs can lead to health complications and overdose. Therefore, strict professional supervision is critical to avoid substance abuse. Patients should communicate any concerns when taking the medication. Healthcare providers should also provide resources for addiction treatment if necessary.

A woman experiencing ankle pain while exercising

Heat and Cold for Pain Relief

Heat and cold therapies are alternative methods for pain relief. They can be an effective tool for different types of pain and injuries. Heat therapy is often used for chronic conditions, such as muscle tension and arthritis. It can help relax muscles and improve blood flow to the affected area. Moreover, individuals can use hot packs, warm baths, or heating pads for thermotherapy.

Cold therapy, on the other hand, is beneficial for acute injuries or inflammation. It helps constrict the blood vessels, numb the area, and reduce swelling. It is common for muscle strains, sprains, and tendonitis. Applying ice packs, ice baths, or even a pack of frozen peas on the affected area can help alleviate pain.

It is vital to follow proper guidelines when using heat and cold therapy. For heat therapy, do not apply heat for too long or at high temperatures to avoid burns. For cold therapy, avoid applying ice directly on the skin to prevent frostbite. Alternating heat and cold can be more effective for some individuals with chronic pain.

When Not to Use Hot or Cold Therapy

  • Do not use cold therapy in areas with poor circulation or sensory disorders.
  • Avoid using heat on areas with an open wound, bruises, or recent injury. For sudden traumas, use cold packs first and then switch to hot packs after 48 hours.
  • Do not use cold therapy on stiff muscles, joints, already numb areas, or there is a risk of cramping.
  • Avoid using heat on swollen areas, as it can increase inflammation.
  • Individuals with diabetes should avoid heat therapy, as it may worsen existing nerve damage.
  • Individuals with Raynaud’s disease or hypersensitivity to cold temperatures should avoid cold therapy.

An elderly couple riding bikes with their grandchildren

Exercise for Pain Relief

Exercise has been highly effective in managing and relieving pain. It can help strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce inflammation. Low-impact exercises like swimming, yoga, or walking are beneficial for individuals with chronic pain. These activities can help increase blood flow and release endorphins. Therefore, regular exercise can lead to long-term pain relief and enhanced well-being.

Furthermore, strengthening exercises can help improve muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility. This can help alleviate pain from musculoskeletal issues or injuries. Strengthening the muscles, especially those surrounding the spine, provides more support and stability in the back. Consequently, it minimises the risk of injuries and chronic pain.

One of the key advantages of exercise is its ability to improve mood and mental health. It can also help individuals manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Therefore, incorporating regular exercise into a pain management plan can have holistic benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Nevertheless, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen. They can provide guidance on the appropriate exercises based on specific needs and limitations.

Examples of Light Exercises to Reduce Pain

Aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, and cycling are a great way to stretch the muscles, ligaments, and joints. Walking is a low-impact activity that can help improve circulation and reduce joint stiffness. Additionally, swimming is easy on the joints. The water provides resistance, which can help improve muscle tone without putting too much strain on the body.

Cycling is another light exercise that can help strengthen the legs and improve cardiovascular health. It can also help reduce lumbar muscle tension, which prevents lower back pain. Incorporating exercise into daily routines can help alleviate pain and improve physical health.

A woman using a TENS machine while reading a book

Physical Therapy for Pain Relief

Physical therapy is a branch of rehabilitative health that focuses on helping individuals recover from injuries, surgeries, or chronic conditions. It utilises various techniques, such as exercise and manual therapy, to help reduce pain and improve the range of motion. A physical therapist can create a personalised treatment plan based on individual needs.

An advantage of physical therapy is it can effectively relieve pain by addressing the underlying causes of the discomfort. Therapists work to strengthen weak muscles, improve flexibility, and correct postural imbalances that may be contributing to the pain. Through targeted exercises and hands-on techniques, they can help reduce swelling and promote faster healing.

Moreover, patients can learn proper body mechanics and movement patterns to prevent future pain episodes and injury. Physical therapists also employ various modalities, including heat and cold, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound for more effective pain relief. By taking a holistic approach to pain management, this method can also empower individuals to take an active role in their recovery.

Advantages of Utilising TENS with Physical Therapy

Combining physical therapy with TENS can enhance the pain-relieving effects. Firstly, they provide a non-invasive and natural approach to pain control. This can effectively block pain signals and promote endorphin release. This can help alleviate discomfort and improve overall function without adverse side effects of drugs.

Another advantage is that it enables patients to be more active during their rehabilitation process. Individuals can participate in physical therapy exercises with less inhibition. This can lead to faster recovery times and improved functional outcomes. Lastly, it can be beneficial for chronic or persistent pain, as it provides continuous and targeted relief.

A man holding his back with both hands

Yoga for Pain Relief

Yoga is another beneficial form of exercise that can help reduce pain, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. It combines physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and mindfulness. Yoga originated in India and has since become popular worldwide for its numerous benefits, including pain relief. One of the ways in which yoga alleviates pain is by focusing on stretching and strengthening the body.

The physical postures, or asanas, help to improve resilience, increase circulation, and reduce muscle tension. Additionally, stress and anxiety are often closely linked to pain and can exacerbate physical symptoms. Breathing techniques, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing and breath awareness, can help calm the mind and reduce stress levels.

Furthermore, the meditative aspects of yoga can play a role in relieving pain. Meditation and mindfulness practices encourage individuals to focus on the present moment rather than dwelling on past experiences or worrying about the future. This can help shift the attention away from pain sensations and attain peace of mind. Overall, yoga offers a holistic approach, addressing both physical and emotional aspects of pain and promoting improved well-being.

Yoga Poses for Pain Conditions

  • Child’s pose (Balasana): It helps relieve back and neck pain.
  • Cat-Cow pose (Marjariasana): Stretches and massages the spine, providing relief for the middle to lower back.
  • Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana): Stretches the hips and can alleviate hip pain.
  • Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Stretches the spine, hamstring, and calves.
  • Cobra pose (Bhujangasana): Strengthens the back muscles, managing chronic back pain.
  • Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): A beginner yoga pose that strengthens the back and opens up the chest, providing relief for both back and shoulder pain.
  • Legs-Up-The-Wall pose (Viparita Karani): Help reduce swelling and discomfort in the legs and lower back.

A woman experiencing a headache

Music for Pain Relief

Listening to music can also be a beneficial tool for pain relief. Music has long been known to have therapeutic effects on the mind and body. It helps reduce anxiety, stress, and pain perception. This may be due to the release of endorphins or changes in catecholamine levels. Music therapy is inexpensive and a readily available option for pain management.

Different types of music can have varying effects on the mind and body. For example, upbeat and energetic music can boost mood and increase energy levels. On the other hand, calming and soothing sounds, such as classical or instrumental music, can provide a relaxed state of mind.

Additionally, therapists use music to help patients improve their physical and psychological needs. This can be beneficial for people with disabilities, injuries or illnesses who need to make lifestyle adjustments. Thus, music can help them feel less anxious and have more positive emotions. By engaging with music in a structured and guided way, individuals can experience deeper relaxation and improvement in total wellness.

Supporting Studies

Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of music therapy for pain management. The findings showed that the pain stimuli decreased arousal as the music-tasked demand increased. In addition, music activates sensory pathways that compete with pain pathways. This helps stimulate emotional response and engagement to reduce pain.

Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that patients who listened to music before, during, or after surgery reported lower pain levels than those who did not listen to music. It has also been found to lower the need for pain medication in patients with chronic pain.

A woman holding the base of her neck

Therapeutic Massages for Pain Relief

In addition to yoga, therapeutic massages can be an effective pain relief option. Unlike traditional massages that focus on relaxation and stress relief, therapeutic massages target specific areas of pain. It involves applying varying degrees of pressure to help improve circulation and release tension. Additionally, therapists use a variety of techniques to address the root cause of the pain.

A common example is the deep tissue massage. It is a type of therapeutic technique that focuses on deep layers of muscle and connective tissue. This can help alleviate chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and back pain. Deep tissue massage works by breaking up adhesions in the muscles, promoting blood flow, and reducing inflammation.

Another effective massage is myofascial release. This targets the fascia, a connective tissue surrounding muscles and organs. By releasing tension in the fascia, myofascial release can help relieve chronic pain conditions such as sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, and migraines. Overall, massage therapy can decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase serotonin and dopamine (the feel-good hormones).

Therapeutic Massages with TENS

Therapeutic massages with TENS combine the benefits of muscle relaxation and nerve stimulation. TENS activates the pain gate mechanism, which helps block the transmission of pain signals. The gentle stroking effects and electrical pulses also help to loosen muscle knots and reduce soreness and tightness.

Moreover, these two therapies can target specific pain areas or tension in the body, providing localised relief. The increase in blood flow also helps reduce inflammation and accelerate healing. Incorporating TENS into therapeutic massages allows individuals to experience deeper levels of relaxation, pain and stress relief, and muscle tension release. This integrated approach makes it an effective pain management solution.

A shirtless man with his hands on his hips and lower back

Alternative Therapies for Pain Relief

Other pain relief methods are available that can serve as alternative therapies. A popular option is acupuncture. It is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. This process aims to stimulate energy flow and the natural healing mechanisms. Many people find relief from chronic conditions, such as migraines, back pain, and arthritis, through regular acupuncture sessions.

Chiropractic care is another method of pain treatment. It focuses on the alignment of the spine and musculoskeletal system to alleviate pain and improve function. Chiropractors use manual manipulation techniques to adjust the spine and joints. This type of therapy is beneficial for neck pain, headaches, and sciatica.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a treatment option involving changing negative thought patterns to help manage pain. It can be effective in treating chronic pain by helping individuals develop coping strategies and relaxation techniques. Lastly, biofeedback therapy uses sensors to monitor physiological reactions to stress and self-regulate responses to pain.

Summary of Supportive Therapies

  • Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific trigger points to stimulate energy flow and reduce pain sensations. It is generally safe but can be uncomfortable or minimally invasive for some people.
  • Chiropractic care focuses on spinal alignment to relieve pressure on the nerves and ease pain.
  • CBT helps individuals develop coping strategies and relaxation techniques with the assistance of a therapist.
  • Biofeedback is a non-invasive treatment that helps individuals monitor and control their physiological responses to pain and stress.
  • These therapies can be used alone or in combination to provide optimal results and improve quality of life.


Effective pain relief is an essential aspect of improving the quality of life for individuals suffering from chronic and acute pain. Before starting any treatment, it is advisable for people to consult a health professional to determine the most suitable method. This is particularly important for people with underlying medical conditions, like diabetes or heart disease. Electrical stimulation, hot and cold, exercise, massage, and physical therapy are common non-pharmacological treatments.

OTC and prescription medications are also effective in reducing pain, but they may come with systemic effects and risks. Furthermore, integrating therapies like yoga, acupuncture, music, CBT, and biofeedback can help enhance the effectiveness of a pain management plan. Overall, the goal of pain management is to improve function, reduce pain intensity, and enhance the quality of life for individuals. In conclusion, utilising one or combining various treatments can help people manage their pain effectively and restore their normal activities.

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