Chronic Pain

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Chronic Pain Treatment

Treating chronic pain often involves a multifaceted approach that can include any one (or combination) of the following treatments14:

Chronic pain medication

  • Over-the-counter pain medication: Non-prescription pain relievers that may be used include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), aspirin, and acetaminophen. In some cases, these medications are enough to control the majority of a person’s pain.
  • Prescription pain medication: When over-the-counter medications don’t work, medical practitioners may prescribe stronger pain medication. These are usually reserved only for severe pain, however, as some prescription pain medications can be habit-forming.
  • Prescription anti-depressants: Some people find that their pain improves on anti-depressants. These increase the available supply of several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which plays a significant part in operating pain pathways in the body.

Your provider may prescribe the following medications for chronic pain:

May be prescribed

Savings Spotlight

Just because it's covered by your insurance doesn't mean it's the best price you can get. Use RxSaver to compare and save.

Chronic pain management

Some other treatments used to help reduce the signs and symptoms of chronic pain include:

  • Heat and cold compresses: These can reduce stiffness and pain, especially in conditions that cause inflammation, such as arthritis.
  • Special exercises: Many people with chronic pain experience pain while exercising. Exercise routines specially designed for patients in pain can help maintain mobility and alignment, which can help reduce pain.
  • Physical and occupational therapy: Some physical and occupational therapists specialize in working with people with chronic pain. They may offer stretching, massages, and other therapies, as well as teach patients how to get through their daily routines while minimizing pain.
  • Injection therapy: Epidural steroid injection, which is administered by a healthcare professional, is the most common of these treatments. These reduce inflammation and can reduce pain over time.
  • Electrical stimulation therapy: This therapy, which delivers short pulses of electricity to the nerve endings through pads that sit on the skin, can help temporarily reduce or eliminate pain.
  • Talk therapy: Therapists can help lower depression levels, as well as aid people in coping with their pain and the changes it has brought into their lives.
  • Support groups: Sometimes, it helps people to talk to others who are also experiencing pain. It can be highly beneficial for a person to know that they are not alone and that life as they know it may not have to end because of their pain.
  • Biofeedback therapy: Biofeedback therapy can help patients learn to control their body's responses to pain. It teaches patients to slow their heart rate and reduce their stress, helping them experience less pain—and less anxiety over the pain that they do have.
  • Behavioral modification therapy: This is another technique designed to help people change the way they respond to pain and stress. It can teach patients how to relax even when they feel worried and anxious, which may help reduce pain over time.
  • Stress management and relaxation training: These types of training use different methods and techniques to achieve the same goals as biofeedback and behavioral modification therapies.
  • Alternative therapies: Some patients find pain relief through a number of alternative therapies, including massage, chiropractic work, acupuncture, dry needling, and more.

Finding the right treatment or combination of treatments can take time, energy, and money—all of which can prove difficult for a person with chronic pain to find. It is important to continually assess the resources available and to have a support system that can help when the patient's own resources are running low. With some help, you should be able to discover the treatments that work best for you and your body.

After some trial and error, many people affected by chronic pain find the combination of treatments or therapies that works best for them over time. Most utilize more than one of the options mentioned above, and they may even cycle through all of them at one point or another.

Chronic pain management

Many medical practitioners speak of managing15 chronic pain rather than treating it. Because many of the conditions associated with chronic pain cannot be cured, some practitioners believe that patients are better off learning to live well in spite of their pain rather than focusing solely on getting rid of it.

Practitioners who prefer pain management may be more likely to focus on lifestyle changes and both behavioral and psychological therapy to help their patients raise their quality of life, even as the pain continues. These practitioners will usually still prescribe or recommend medications as needed to manage pain but tend to emphasize that they are to be used in addition to other techniques and therapies.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1–800–273–8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

You may also reach out to the Samaritans: Call or text (877) 870-HOPE (4673).

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.