Chronic pain is never easy, and managing it can be a challenge on its own. Fortunately, there are many different kinds of pain management available to those who need it. Here are some of the most common methods of pain management therapy and how they work:

Over-the-Counter Painkillers

Over-the-counter painkillers come in two main types: acetaminophen and NSAIDs, which consist of drugs like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Aleve. Since these painkillers can be purchased without a prescription, they are most commonly used for aches and pains, headaches, and sore muscles. Since they typically come in smaller doses, larger dosages can be obtained via prescription.

Prescription Painkillers

Prescription painkillers, just like higher-dosage over-the-counter painkillers, cannot be purchased without a doctor’s prescription. These drugs are classified as narcotics and contain common names like fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone. Narcotics manage more severe pain than traditional painkillers and as such, can cause serious side effects like drowsiness, impaired judgment, nausea, vomiting, and itching. These painkillers are most often used in hospitals and after surgeries, but they are another option people can use if over-the-counter medications aren’t effective.

Heat Therapy

Outside of drugs, people experiencing chronic pain have other options to manage their pain. Temperature therapy, for example, uses both heat and cold to relieve pain.

Heat-based temperature therapy is used to improve blood circulation and is ideal for aches, pains, and relieving tension in the body. There are two main types of heat therapy, one which uses dry heat, and the other moist. Dry heat therapy can be seen in the form of heating pads, saunas, and dry heat packs. Moist heat is most often applied via hot towels, baths, and moist heat packs. When working with heat therapy, it is always important to make sure the heated object is warm to avoid burning.

Another form of heat therapy that people can use to help with arthritis pain in the hands and feet comes in the form of a paraffin wax bath. Paraffin wax baths use a specific type of melted wax to relieve cramps and joint pain in the hands and are often used in spas and physical therapy treatments.


Cryotherapy is another form of temperature-based therapy that uses the cold instead of heat and works by reducing the blood flow to specific areas of the body. This reduces inflammation and can reduce nerve activity to reduce pain. Cryotherapy is most often seen in cold packs, but other forms of cryotherapy include ice baths, ice massages, coolant sprays, and full-body cryotherapy chambers. Cryotherapy can also be used in tandem with active exercise and stretching to help relieve pain as well. When working with cold temperatures, it is best to work in short periods (10-15 minutes), and with a towel between the cold compress and your skin.

TENS/EMS Therapy

Electrotherapy for pain relief can be most commonly found in TENS therapy and EMS therapy. Both treatments work to relieve pain by stimulating nerves with light electric shocks. TENS and EMS units work best for chronic pains caused by osteoarthritis, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, lower back pain, pelvic pain, and muscle pain. TENS units, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation units, send electrical impulses from a machine to small electrodes placed around pained areas on the body. While both TENS and EMS units work the same, EMS units send stronger electrical impulses that can stimulate muscles, making them ideal for building muscle strength instead of pain relief.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists work alongside doctors to help understand an individual’s pain and develop pain management regimens people can use to relieve their pain through exercise and movement. Typically, physical therapists use multiple forms of pain management techniques, often combining exercise therapy with electrostimulation therapy, temperature therapy, and painkilling drugs.

Surgery for Pain Relief

In a worst-case scenario, some forms of chronic pain can’t be managed without surgery. In other cases, injuries like a pinched nerve or an illness like cancer can also cause pain that is best removed through surgery. Surgical options for pain relief may be best for people whose lives are severely debilitated by their pain, and it is often a final option for treatment.

If you or a loved one is experiencing chronic pain, contact your doctor for more information. To browse pain management products that can help make everyday life easier, visit Medical Supply Depot.

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