July 22, 2024

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5 Non-Opioid Options for Managing Chronic Pain

4 min read
5 Non-Opioid Options for Managing Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is frustrating to the person hurting and everyone around them. It can impact the overall quality of life of a previously active and happy individual. When you’re in pain, it’s hard to push through and act like you’re enjoying your day.

But if you find the right treatments to manage your ongoing pain, it makes it easier to get back into the land of the living.

Years ago, opioids were the default coping mechanism for people with consistent pain. Today, we know that these drugs have more problems than benefits associated with them.

If you want to avoid addictive painkillers, it’s possible! These non-opioid options will effectively manage your chronic pain.


It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but getting active and pushing through the pain may be exactly what works.

With your doctor’s guidance, you can come up with a light exercise routine that reduces your pain.

Activity reduces inflammation, which pushes on your nerves and increases pain receptor stimulation. It also increases mobility and encourages muscle repair and growth.

Staying active also aids in weight control. When you’re overweight, your joints and organs are working harder to do the bare minimum job. If you can get rid of some of that extra weight, it might reduce your pain levels.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

When your chronic pain is interfering with your ability to do basic activities, like walking and dressing, PT and OT can help.

PT, or physical therapy, is a treatment provided by specialists who teach you how to regain control of your muscles. Your physical therapist will evaluate you and, based on your needs, come up with a treatment plan. It will likely include exercise, stretching, and the use of special equipment.

Occupational therapy (OT) is similar. The therapists focus on helping you learn how to perform essential activities of daily living instead of overall movement.

If your pain is from arthritis, for example, and you can’t bend your fingers, your OT will help you relearn how to eat, bathe, and dress.

Medical Marijuana

Dozens of states have approved the legal use of medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. With this legislation, the stigma of “weed” has mostly disappeared.

Now, many doctors are switching from prescribing opioids to recommending marijuana as an effective way to manage pain. Research continues to churn out more benefits of cannabis over opioids all the time.

We’re still hitting the tip of the iceberg of what marijuana can help with. But we already know it’s a safer alternative to opioids when it comes to treating pain.

According to a June 2021 scientific journal, 35 states allow medical marijuana. More than 3.5 million people are legally able to use their MMJ cards. The numbers are steadily increasing, and the social stigma of using cannabis is on the decline.

Laser and Sound Wave Therapies

Non-opioid options for managing chronic pain - Harvard Health

It’s hard to believe something you can’t see, feel, or hear could be useful. However, there are lots of effective laser and sound wave therapies.

Ultrasound, for example, is a form of treatment that uses sound waves to break up inflamed tissue. It can improve your blood circulation and speed up how quickly an injury recovers.

Another type of invisible treatment is cold laser therapy. Also known as low-level laser therapy, this modality is FDA-approved. It works by sending a wavelength of light into the area of injury. The light reduces inflammation and repairs tissues.

Non-Opioid Medicines

You can still benefit from medication that isn’t related to the opioid family. In fact, there are lots of medicinal options that are used for chronic pain relief, such as:

  • Topical creams and lotions – Ointments with medications in them are directly applied to the injured area. The medication is absorbed through the skin and helps alleviate pain.
  • Herbal pain relievers – If you prefer the natural route, some studies show that certain vitamins and supplements lower the pain threshold. Willow bark, for instance, works like aspirin, relieving pain and reducing fever.
  • OTC medications – Tylenol and Advil are two of the most common over-the-counter pain relievers. Any product that has acetaminophen in it works to reduce pain. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are another pain relief family of OTC medications.

Talk to your doctor before you start using any type of medication. Some properties can interact with your current prescriptions. Others may have certain side effects that could make your condition worse.


Living with chronic pain doesn’t have to mean you can’t enjoy life.

Being addicted to opioids may take away your discomfort, but it has its own way of destroying your health. Instead, try one or all of these five non-opioid options to manage chronic pain.