Complementary Therapies

There are so many therapies that have the potential to lower our pain or, at the very least, help us find calm in the midst of chaos. Here is a list of some complementary therapies that may be worth looking into. 

Please note: complementary therapy options may have varying research and evidence to support them. U.S. Pain Foundation does not endorse any one type of treatment. These definitions are for educational purposes only.

To heal does not necessarily mean to cure. It can simply mean helping people to achieve a way of life compatible with their aspirations—to restore their freedom to make choices—even in the presence of continuing disease.

Rene Dubos

Explore 85+ types of treatment across seven categories



Active Release Technique

ART is a patented, state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique

The ART provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tightness and movement of muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Abnormal tissues are treated by combining precise and directed tension with very specific patient movements.

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Acupuncture, common in Chinese medicine, involves inserting thin, tiny needles into certain points of the body. Traditional Chinese practitioners believes acupuncture balances the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi. Western practitioners see it as a way to stimulate nerves and muscles in a way that promotes pain relief and healing.

For More Info:

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA)

Society for Acupuncture Research (SAR)

Acupressure/ Deep Tissue Release

Acupressure is very similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, practitioners apply pressure using their hands to trigger points in the body. Because it is very gentle and noninvasive, itmay be a good choice for someone who is uncomfortable with needles. Acupressure focuses on releasing tension, increasing circulation, and promoting relaxation.

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Aromatherapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils to promote well-being; different smells are believed to provide different effects. Aromatherapy can be applied topically (as a lotion or oil) or inhaled (via an oil diffuser or scented candle). It is often used in conjunction with massage.

For more information:

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a creative method of expression used as a therapeutic technique. An art therapist works with a client—using many kinds of materials—to initiate a creative process that elicits feelings and realizations. The therapist helps the client process those feelings, draw conclusions, develop appropriate actions, and more.

For more information:

American Art Therapy Association

Foundation for Art & Healing

Courageous heARTS

Aura Imaging

Adherents to this therapy believe that surrounding each of us is a strong, vibrating energy field, known as an aura. Auras are influenced by the energy within us as well as those outside our physical state, in the etheric field. Their function is to carry, store, transmit, and receive energies in and around us, impacting one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual states.

For more information:

What do the colors of your aura mean?

Bach Flowers

Bach Flowers is a type of homeopathic medicine made up of 38 different plants and flowers. Practitioners believe that, used together or alone in specific formulas, these plants and flowers can bring clarity and stability to the body. Each remedy is personally designed to help each person. A questionnaire guides one to the right formula by determining the severity of my mood, mentality, health, and stress levels.

For more information:

The Original Bach Flowers Remedies


Biofeedback uses sensitive electronic instruments to measure a person’s bodily processes and then feeds back that information to the person to help them learn to control their physiology. Several types of biofeedback—including muscle tension (EMG), temperature (blood flow), heart rate variability (HRV), and brain wave (neurofeedback)—have been shown to be helpful for reducing chronic pain. Biofeedback is often paired with coaching in relaxation techniques.

For more information:

The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

Western Association of Biofeedback and Neuroscience

International Society for Neurofeedback and Researc

Biofeedback Certification International Alliance

Breath Work

The mind-body connection is necessary in healing disease in the body. Eastern philosophies use the term disease while discussing illnesses because of the belief that a disease is just disease stored in the body. By controlling the rhythm of each breath, a person can begin to control the body and mind.

For more information:

Holistic Help: Breathwork

Chakra Alignment

Chakra alignment operates on the belief that we have chakras, or energy centers that exist within and outside the physical body at the etheric level. In this ancient philosophy, there are seven main chakras (root, naval, solar plexus, heart, throat, third-eye, and crown), which are aligned up the spine to the crown of the head. Each chakra relates both to the physical and emotional health of our body.

For more information:

Vibrational Energy Medicine

Chakra Energy

Chiropractic Work

A chiropractor’s main objective is to realign and manipulate the spine and neck in a way that relieves pain, promotes healing, and improves overall function. There are many different styles of chiropractic care, and chiropractors use a wide range of strategies, techniques, and products as part of treatment.

For more information:

American Chiropractic Association

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Chiropractic


Colon hydrotherapy involves inserting a small tube up the rectum, which carries distilled water into the colon and toxic waste out. According to proponents of colon hydrotherapy, it can improve overall health by depleting the body of harmful, toxic waste, causing a decrease in tension headaches, instilling proper bowel movement, and creating a balanced state of well-being.

For more information:

Mayo Clinic: Is colon cleansing a good way to eliminate toxins from your body?

Color Therapy

Color therapy enthusiasts believe that color impact every aspect of our being. They believe that the way we respond to different shades changes our mood, attitude and health, and that through the vibrations of energy in each color, we are either pushed or pulled closer to harmony or distress.

For more information:

Color and Color Therapy

Craniosacral Massage

This type of gentle massage mainly focuses on the spine, in hopes of balancing any blockages that may exist between the head, neck, and spine.

For more information:

The Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America (BCTA/NA) 

Crystal Therapy

Crystal therapy comes from the belief that crystals magnetically attract or repel unwanted energy, and that each type of crystal has distinct properties and energies that can affect you emotionally and physically. Proponents believe these stones can pass their healing powers on to others through the “etheric” energy field that surrounds the body.

For more information:

Crystal Healing: Stone-Cold Facts About Gemstone Treatments

Dance Therapy

Dance therapy uses movement and dance to help emotional, cognitive and physical conditions. Founded on the basis that movement and emotion are related, the purpose of such therapy is to find balance, joy, and sense of wellness.

For more information:

American Dance Therapy Association

National Coalition of Arts Therapies Associations

Dietary Changes

A well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet can certainly improve overall well-being; that is widely accepted. But many believe specific diets—like antinflammatory, gluten-free, or plant-based diets—may help reduce pain, whether by reducing fatigue, inflammation, or other problems. Trained nutritionists and dietitians can help you identify the right foods to eat.

For more information:

Diet and Chronic Pain: The Paleo Perspective

Foods That Fight Pain.

The Ultimate Guide To An Anti-Inflammatory Shopping List

The Connection Between Gluten And Arthritis

Gout Diet

Is Gluten Bad For You? A Critical Look


Exercise is one of the most important ways you can improve your health and even manage pain. No matter how much pain you are in, there is almost always some type of exercise you can do–even if its just gentle ankle movements or hand squeezes. Some good examples of exercise for those with chronic pain include: walking; yoga; swimming; pilates; strength training.Talk to your doctor, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and/or a personal trainer about what is best for you.

For more information:

The five best exercises to ease chronic pain

Role of Physical Activity in Managing Chronic Pain in Older Adults

Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults – an overview of Cochrane Reviews

Energy (Body) Work

Energy healing has the power to make one stronger, healthier, and wiser by removing old blockages in ones’ energy field. It is believed to work through resonance: the energy of another vibrates in unison with yours. By learning to direct, control, and increase this life-energy, the body begins to heal itself naturally.

Aligning chakras, crystal use, and prayer can be used to heighten the energy, leading to a very successful session. This form of bodywork, involving the mind-body-spirit connection, has proven to be helpful tool for many with pain.

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Feldenkrais stresses the importance of “knowing and understanding” the inner-workings of the body. The Feldenkrais method, Awareness Through Movement, specifically focuses on becoming acutely aware of the way the body moves and interacts with the outside world.

For More Information

International Feldenkrais Federation (IFF)

On Sticky Topics

Feng Shui

The belief surrounding this ancient technique, deals with our own power to influence and change our Universe by establishing positive chi (energy) to exist in our space. The way I feel and act has a lot to do with the energy field I am submitting to the world. By rearranging small things, one essentially changes the chi, creating a new environment that is filled with health, happiness, and wealth.

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Guided Imagery

Guided imagery entails directing thoughts and suggestions to guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. It is based on the belief that the body and mind are connected.

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Heat Therapy

Heat therapy, also called thermotherapy, is the use of heat in therapy, such as for pain relief and health.

For More Information

Avecen Medical

How and When to Use Heat vs. Cold Therapy

Healing Touch

Healing Touch is the laying of hands above the seven main energy centers in order to balance and heal disease. As energy flows through my body, a sense of tranquility and peace calm the mind and body, allowing true healing to occur. Healing touch can be accomplished through prayer, meditation, and energy transfer.

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Herb and Mineral Use

Herbs are nature’s own healing remedy. Herbalists understand the benefits of curing ailments with pure and natural substances found in the earth. While taking prescription drugs, there is a high probability that poisons and unwanted toxins will also be released in the body, causing serious side-effects and future problems.

For More Information

Natural Health and Healing

Consumer Lab

Hot Mineral Springs

For hundreds of years, soaking in hot mineral springs has proven effective in relieving chronic pain. The springs are actually bubbling, hot water found in the earth’s core, containing high quantities of minerals, including magnesium.

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By entering an altered, relaxed state of mind, each of us has the ability to silence the mind’s thoughts, and focus on becoming more aware of emotions and feelings that otherwise would be difficult to achieve. The purpose of this therapy is to increase brain communication to certain nerves in the body. This allows an increase in the release of neuropeptides and polypeptides—neuropeptides counteract norepinephrine while polypeptides decrease the production of Substance P—directly aiding in the decrease of pain.

For More Information

American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists

Laser Therapy

Low Level Laser Therapy (aka cold laser) is a well-established therapy for pain relief and rehabilitation of numerous injuries. The laser light penetrates tissue where it is absorbed by cells and effectively stimulates healing and rapid pain relief.

For More Information

What is Laser Therapy?


Light Therapy

Light therapy or phototherapy consists of exposure to daylight or to specific wavelengths of light using polychromatic polarized light, laserslight-emitting diodesfluorescent lampsdichroic lamps or very bright, full-spectrum light.  Light emitting diode (LED) devices are designed to treat arthritis, muscle spasm, muscle and joint pain, muscle tissue tension, joint and muscle stiffness as well as decreased circulation.

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Celluma (Biophotas)

Life Light


For many years, magnets have been used to treat pain with mixed results from physicians over the accuracy of their healing abilities.

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Massage Therapy

One of the oldest healing arts known to mankind is massage. Massage therapy has been proven beneficial for many chronic pain conditions.

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Meditation, Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Meditation quiets the nervous system and lowers stress, which decreases muscle tension, and can lead to lower pain levels.

For More Information

American Meditation Society

Pathway to Mindfulness Meditation

Transcendental Meditation

Messages from the Body work

Developed by Dr. Narayan-Singh, Messages From The Body, deals with the philosophy that illnesses are really dis-ease trapped in the body. By listening to our inner-guides and releasing old (or harmful) beliefs, we free ourselves of pain and anguish. Everything that happens in our lives is happening for a reason—to inform us of the imbalances that may lie within.

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Music Therapy

Music Therapy is using music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of an individual. Treatment includes creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.

For More Information

American Music Therapy Association

Physical and Occupational Therapy

The main difference between PT and OT is that occupational therapy focuses primarily on the upper limbs (hands) and improving fine motor nerves. Treatments for physical therapy include hot and cold therapy, stretching, strengthening exercises, water therapy, fluido-therapy, ultra sound, etc. Treatments for occupational therapy include stretching hand, massaging tendons, weight-bearing exercises, de-sensitization, splinting, coloring/drawing, writing, etc. The work accomplished by these two therapies carries over into a person’s every day life; one can apply these techniques to his or her lifestyle.

For More Information

American Physical Therapy Association

American Occupational Therapy Association

The American Occupational Therapy Foundation


The objective of this therapy is to see how one copes with pain, making sure each person has found a way to acknowledge fears, stress, or emotional turmoil in a healthy way.

For More Information

Psychology Today

American Psychological Association

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy

Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy uses low-level electromagnetic waves that accelerate the body’s ability to repair injured cells. PEMF therapy speeds your body’s ability to recover, increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation. PEMF technology has no known side effects and cannot be overused. The technology has been a trusted solution for pain management, tissue regeneration, bone growth, and many other conditions for decades.

Active “transporter” channels in cells open or close according to small electrical potentials that develop across the cell membrane in accordance with movement. In each of our joints, compression and decompression of the cells (called the proteoglycan matrix) create what are called “voltage differentials” that open or close gates in the channels, thus controlling the flow of nutrients and waste products in and out of the cell. A healthy cell produces positive and negative charges required for the exchange, which takes place through these special gates or channels, of potassium, sodium and calcium ions. Healthy cells maintain this potential through active ion movement. Cellular metabolism is negatively affected when electrical potentials are lost through injury or degenerative issues. In order to stimulate and speed cellular regeneration, PEMF mimics the body’s own electrical energy, restoring the electrical potentials needed for optimal ion exchange.

For More Information

Oska Wellness


This powerful healing technique has the ability to relax our state of mind, allowing the body to heal itself naturally by balancing glands, calming muscles, detoxifying the body, and producing endorphins to ease pain. Reflexology can be performed on either hands or feet.

More Information

Reflexology Association of America


Reiki is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through each of us. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction that also promotes healing the body, mind and spirit.

For More Information

International Association of Reiki Professionals

The Reiki Alliance 

Spiritual Response Therapy

Spiritual Response Therapy is a transformational system that can help you achieve breakthrough results. Your subconscious mind is like a computer that stores and runs negative life programs that may interfere with your ability to live your life to its highest potential. These programs may express themselves as health problems, addictions, relationship conflicts, or an infinite variety of problems. SRT works directly with the subconscious mind and soul records to find and remove these negative programs, freeing you from blocks to health, prosperity, and happiness.

For More information

Spiritual Response Association

SRT Works

Steam Room

Sweating is the easiest way to rid the body of toxins and poisons. When body heat rises, sweat glands begin to excrete wastes and toxins on the cellular level, initiating a fever-like response, which stimulates the immune system. Due to the fact that 30% of all bodily waste is eliminated through perspiration, entering a steam room is extremely beneficial in ridding harmful toxins from the body. This therapy also helps relax muscles, increase blood circulation, and improves respiratory problems.

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St. John Neuromuscular Massage Therapy

This type of massage deals with specific trigger points in the body. The goal is to release the excess pain and tension stored in the exasperated muscles.

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T’ai Chi Chih

T’ai Chi Chih is a simpler form of ancient T’ai chi based on twenty postures. It is referred to as a “moving meditation.” The main intention is to increase circulation while balancing the body’s own vital energy. Moving chi (energy) through the body’s meridians (main energy points) centers and calms the spirit. These slow, gentle movements create a soft, flowing, continual motion aligning the body, mind, and soul. T’ai Chi Chih has the power to heal. Good health, better flexibility, mental clarity, weight control, the balance of mind-body connection is all possible while practicing T’ai Chi Chih.

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Upper Cervical Spine care

Upper cervical doctors are different than other types of chiropractic specialists. Upper cervical chiropractors reduce the brain stem irritation and improve brain to body communication by returning proper structural balance to the upper neck.

For More Information

Blair Chiropractic

National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association

Upper Cervical Awareness

Upper Cervical Care

Visualization Therapy

Visualization therapy deals with the belief that before one can accomplish anything, one must imagine it first. Therefore, to obtain overall health, a person must not only imagine healing, but also visualize being healed. The philosophy behind imagery is that chemicals in the nervous system drastically change when picturing a mental image. Studies show the same amount of brain stimulation whether one is actually participating in an activity or imagining that same action. The use of energy and visualization can heal all problems.

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Water Therapy

Water therapy, or aquatic therapy, is designed to improve or sustain gait, muscle strength and endurance, balance, agility, function, coordination, flexibility, function, and body mechanics and posture. Therapists can tailor treatments for each patient using underwater treadmills and orthotic or other assistive tools designed for water.

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The ultimate goal of yoga is to reach the state of absolute peace and tranquility existing between mind and body. By practicing slow poses that require proper breathing, flexibility will increase along with a new sense of serenity.

For More Information

Yoga Alliance

Karma Yoga Project