Teaching Your Patients to Manage Pain Without Medicine

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Teaching Your Patients to Manage Pain Without Medicine

At one point or another, we have all experienced some form of acute pain. Acute pain typically lasts less than 3-6 months. From a stubbed toe to a sprained ankle from that pick-up game of basketball, we’ve all experienced physical pain. It can be fairly painful, but heals at a steady rate, unlike chronic pain. Chronic pain can last for months or longer. If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, you can imagine the emotional toll having pain for that long can take on an individual. This too often makes them run to the medicine cabinet for any form of relief. Yet, as therapists, we realize that medicine is too often the quickest short-term solution with a host of negative side effects. This is why it’s important to teach our patients how they can manage their pain without medication.

Chronic Pain

Because 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain nationwide, it’s likely you will consistently have patients who need to learn how to manage pain without medicine. When you are in pain with little to no relief for that long, you are willing to try anything to feel better.

Opioid Epidemic

Opioid analgesics are commonly prescribed to patients with pain. Because of the over prescribed opioids, their addictive properties and an abundance of misuse by many, more than 115 people die every day due to an overdose of opioids. As therapists, we can help avert this crisis by showing alternative pain management methods.


It can be tricky to convince someone who has trouble moving to exercise, but we need to remind our patients that this is one of the best things they can do to decrease inflammation. Exercise produces endorphins which aid in blocking pain. Not to mention that it will make them feel stronger physically and mentally.

Physical Therapy

You already know the benefits of your field of study, but be sure to remind your patients of the goals of therapy. Be clear communicating with them about how the prescribed treatment will impact their pain. Tell them that research shows completing these exercises can produce more significant results than medication.

Occupational Therapy

In Occupational Therapy, we are able to show clients how to manage their pain without drugs by showing alternative options for movement. We can show them cold or heat therapy in addition to offering interventions to their activities of daily living that minimize their pain. Those who suffer from chronic pain are often afraid of movement, so we need to listen to their concerns and be prepared to offer multiple solutions that will work best for their specific pain. We can teach them proper movement and muscle relaxation. Whatever intervention is chosen, it needs to be client-centered and positive.

Focus on Life

When an individual is in a constant state of pain, it can be tempting for them to withdraw, which many often do. Unfortunately, this leads to depression and suicidal ideation or completion of suicide. As healthcare providers, we should encourage patients to keep living their lives in combination with their treatments. It’s important for them to keep busy. It is helpful for patients to get out and continue activities that bring them joy in order to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Like the popular 1944 song goes, you’ve got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

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