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Treatment option list

Here is a working list of treatment options for pain by category. We have ordered them from least invasive to most invasive. We encourage you to print out this list and bring it to your clinician to see which therapies they might recommend.

Self-management techniques

  • Activity restriction or modification
  • Assistive devices or technologies
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Exercise and strengthening programs
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Support groups
  • Stress reduction techniques, including visualization or body scanning
  • Stretching and mobility programs

Restorative therapies

  • Chiropractic care
  • Decompression (traction units, tilt tables)
  • Hot & cold therapy
  • Massage
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Pool or aquatic therapy
  • Postural training
  • Strength training
  • Taping (kinesiology tape)
  • Stretching and strengthening programs, like Pilates, yoga, or tai chi

Complementary and alternative medicine

  • Acupuncture or acupressure
  • Aromatherapy
  • Art, music, or dance therapy
  • Color therapy
  • Cupping
  • Craniosacral therapy
  • Dry needling
  • Floatation therapy
  • Herbal and vitamin supplements
  • Hypnosis
  • Reiki
  • Reflexology

Mind-body approaches

A note about mind-body approaches: Addressing the psychosocial impact of pain does not mean your pain isn’t real. But stress exacerbates pain, and likewise, pain exacerbates stress. Interrupting this cycle is essential to improving your quality of life.

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Biofeedback or neurofeedback
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Psychiatric care
  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Support groups
  • Talk therapy
  • Virtual reality technology

Medications

The medication categories below are associated with general pain relief; however, there are many other disease-specific medications that treat the underlying condition and therefore relieve pain (e.g. calcitonin gene-related peptide inhibitors for migraine, or immunosuppressive medications for autoimmune disorders). Some pain medications may work across multiple channels and categories of relief, or they may be formulated in combination with other medications to target multiple channels. Medications may be delivered in various ways; for example, orally, intravenously, or topically.

Nonopioid analgesics

  • Acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications
  • Salicylates
  • COX-II inhibitors

Opioid analgesics

  • Adjuvant analgesics
  • Antiepileptic medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Local anesthetics and topicals

Other pain relievers

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Corticosteroids
  • GABAb receptor agonists
  • Medical cannabis
  • Muscle relaxants
  • N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists
  • N-type calcium channel blocker
  • Opioid agonists and antagonists

*Working closely together, health care providers and their patients must decide whether the potential benefits of opioid therapy outweigh the risks.

Noninvasive interventions and procedures

  • Cold laser
  • Deep oscillation therapy
  • Electrical nerve stimulation
  • External trigeminal nerve stimulation
  • Functional electrical stimulation
  • High-frequency impulse therapy
  • Infrared light therapy
  • Interferential current stimulation
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
  • Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Percutaneous neuromodulation therapy
  • Peripheral nerve field stimulator
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy
  • Scrambler therapy
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Other electric stimulation therapies

Invasive interventions and procedures

Injections or blocks

  • Botulinum toxin injections
  • Chemical sympathectomy
  • Cryoneurolysis or cryoablation
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Epidural injections
  • Nerve, facet, & medial branch blocks
  • Neurolysis or ablative techniques
  • Radiofrequency ablation/lesioning (also known as rhizotomy)
  • Thermal intradiscal procedures (e.g. intervertebral disc annuloplasty or transdiscal biaculoplasty)
  • Trigger point injections

Regenerative therapies

  • Platelet-rich plasma therapy
  • Prolotherapy
  • Stem cell therapy

Implanted pain devices

  • Intrathecal pain pump
  • Spinal cord stimulator implant or peripheral nerve field stimulation