Know Your Options

In 2019, a government-sponsored task force* recommended that each patient have a specific treatment plan that considers the use of a range of therapies for treating their pain.

Your pain treatment plan should be individualized for your needs. Your healthcare provider may recommend treatments from one or more of the sections below.

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2019). Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force Report: Updates, Gaps, Inconsistencies, and Recommendations. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.
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Restorative Therapies

Restorative therapies include many different approaches, such as the use of a heating pad or ice pack, exercise, and physical therapy. When used with other treatments, these therapies can reduce pain. They have been shown to improve movement and flexibility and can help you maintain mobility.

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Physical activity can help reduce pain and increase mobility. Some examples are gentle aerobic walking, swimming, or cycling.

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Professionals can ease pain by relaxing tense muscles and joints, which can relieve stress and anxiety.

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Physical Therapy

Doctors may recommend physical therapy for pain as a first option. A physical therapist can guide you through exercises to preserve and improve strength and mobility.

Complementary and Integrative Health

Complementary and integrative health therapies are alternative and holistic options that can be used with traditional medicine. These therapies may be considered “nonmainstream.”

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Alternative Treatments

These include chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and meditation.

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Yoga and tai chi are suggested to stretch and strengthen muscles.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies can be used to treat pain. Chronic pain can have a significant impact on multiple aspects of your life, such as relationships, self-esteem, and the ability to function at work. The goal of caring for your mental health is to improve the pain experience and restore function by addressing the cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social factors that contribute to the stress of pain.

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Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies can include emotional awareness and mindfulness, or other behavioral interventions.

Interventional Approaches

Interventional approaches such as an ultrasound can be noninvasive and can help identify the source of pain, which in turn can help your doctor decide on the best treatment for you. Interventional approaches can also be procedures such as nerve blocks, which stop the pain signal, or steroid injections, which reduce inflammation and swelling.


Medications available for treating pain vary greatly. Each medication has its risks and benefits, so it is important to have open and honest conversations with your healthcare provider to determine the options that will work best for you.

Acetaminophen +

Acetaminophen can treat mild to moderate aches and pains such as headaches and muscle aches. It can also reduce fevers. Tylenol is a common brand name.


NSAIDs provide pain relief from inflammation in conditions such as arthritis, headaches, and pain from an injury or surgery. Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

Anticonvulsants +

Anticonvulsants were originally developed to treat seizures but also have been found to treat certain pain syndromes like migraines. Gabapentin is an example of an anticonvulsant.

Antidepressants +

Antidepressants can be used in chronic pain conditions even when the patient is not clinically depressed. They vary in how effective they are in treating certain types of pain like neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, and musculoskeletal pain.

Musculoskeletal agents +

Musculoskeletal agents are another therapy your healthcare provider may recommend. Some examples include baclofen, tizanidine, and cyclobenzaprine.

Antianxiety medication +

Antianxiety medication often is prescribed to treat the anxiety that comes along with acute pain or changes in chronic pain.  Anxiety has been shown to worsen the severity of pain and make it harder to handle. Examples include benzodiazepines and buspirone.

Opioids +

Opioids work by targeting receptors in your brain or spine to relieve pain.

No 2 opioids are the same and they all vary in the pain relief provided. In fact, there are different categories that opioids fall under, depending on their risk for abuse and dependence. Opioid medications can put you at risk of overdose and death and should be used only after consultation with and as prescribed by a licensed healthcare professional. Examples include hydrocodone, buprenorphine, and morphine.

Some patients with chronic pain may need prescription medications. These medications require medical oversight, so please seek the advice of a healthcare professional.