Types of Pain Relief


Many types of pain relief are available but the prescribed pain treatment/management depends on the underlying cause, severity of the pain, its type and the overall physical and psychological health of the patient. Pain medications are the most commonly used type of pain relief and are used to alleviate both acute and chronic pain. But while acute pain goes away when the underlying cause is eliminated, chronic pain tends to persist and is more challenging to control.

Chronic pain is almost always a symptom of an older injury or underlying condition and its management therefore requires treatment of the underlying cause of the pain. But it typically also involves one or multiple types of pain relief which may include:

Pain medications. Depending on severity of the pain and the overall health of the patient, different classes of pain medications can be used. Acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and topical corticosteroids are used for management of mild to moderate pain. Patients who do not respond to the mentioned pain relievers which are available over-the-counter are prescribed prescription-strength pain medications which may also include opioids. These medications are associated with increased risk of drug addiction, however, if they are used according to the doctor’s instructions the risk of becoming addicted to opioids is minimal.

Physical therapy. Stretching, strengthening exercises, aerobic exercises and other forms of physical therapy promote healing, and reduce the risk of injury and disabilities but they also help relieve pain. Most chronic pain sufferers benefit from physical therapy but its efficiency depends on the underlying cause of the pain. Physical therapy is typically used in combination with other types of pain relief including medications.

Surgery. It is an option only when chronic pain is caused by an injury or tissue damage which can be treated with surgical procedure. After a successful surgery, the pain often disappears although some patients continue to experience chronic pain.

Psychological counselling. Psychological problems, especially depression have been shown to play a major role in chronic pain. In addition, some people experience pain for no apparent reason. But psychological counselling is also beneficial for other people who suffer from chronic pain. It helps them cope with the pain and learn stress relief and relaxation techniques which have been shown to help reduce the severity of the pain.

Other types of pain management. Depending on the cause of pain, its severity and the patient’s overall health, other types of pain management can also be used either as primary or supportive treatment such as occupational therapy, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), hot pack, exercise, etc.

Home remedies. Sometimes simple home remedies such as cold/warm compresses, massage, etc. help relieve the pain just as efficiently as over-the-counter pain medications. However, they are helpful only for mild to moderate pain.

Alternative treatments. There are a few evidence which suggest that alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic and herbal remedies may be helpful for some chronic pain patients. However, there are not enough scientific evidence to support their benefits for pain relief. Alternative treatments should be used only with prior doctor’s approval.