I was sitting in the Phoenix airport the other day waiting for my flight and started talking to the woman sitting next to me. She was concerned about the time of the flight because she had to take one of her medicines at 7:00 a.m., then she had to take another medicine 1 hour later.

Our flight was supposed to take off at 7:05 a.m. so she was worried if she would have some water available to take her medicine.

Do you ever get tired of taking all those pills, watching the clock and planning your life around your pill schedule? If so, here are 9 ways that you can manage your pain without all those pills!


You’re getting sleepy…. very sleepy…Okay – maybe not. But I’m sure you have heard this phrase before in the movies. But what exactly is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a technique to enhance your concentration and minimize your distractions to improve how you respond to suggestions. Fun fact – hypnosis has been around since 1500 BC!

There are 4 stages to using hypnosis to manage your pain. First is the induction phase which helps you focus your attention. Second is the deepening phase to help deepen the relaxation of your body. Third is the suggestion phase where they hypnotist gives you suggestions to help alter your experience of pain. Finally, comes the debriefing phase where you review what just happened.

When I first started having back pain, I did go to a hypnotist who taught me self-hypnosis. I found it very useful in helping me deal with my emotional response to pain.


Did you know that there are people who have a fear (phobia) of being touched? It’s called haphephobia. If you have haphephobia then massage therapy for pain relief is not for you.

But if you don’t have haphephobia, I highly recommend massage therapy. Massage therapy has been scientifically proven to reduce pain from various causes. Some insurances will even pay for this – you should absolutely check this out.


Yoga, like hypnosis, has been around for a long time. Yoga was developed in India to improve wellbeing. Today, yoga can help increase flexibility, strength, balance, stamina, and even improve sleep.

Yoga can be done at home or in a studio or class. You only need a towel and a yoga mat to get started. I use this yoga mat and just a regular bath towel.

A typical yoga session can last 30 – 60 minutes; however, I do 10 -15 minutes a day. I’ve found that this helps my flexibility. You may also need to modify some of the poses based on your situation. But this is ok; any movement is better than none.

Jane Adams has a great yoga DVD that I’ve been using for a few months and it’s very helpful. You can get it here.

Heat/Cold Wraps

Depending on where your pain is, heat and cold can also be a lifesaver. I’ve found that sometimes heat works best and other days cold therapy works best.

Heat therapy works by increasing circulation and blood flow to the area where the heat is applied. There are 2 types of heat therapy: dry heat and moist heat. Moist heat includes hot baths and steamy towels. Dry heat includes heating pads and saunas. I use this heating pad because it’s washable.

Cold therapy works by decreasing blood flow the area where the cold is applied. It can temporarily lessen the nerve activity which leads to decreased pain. You can use reusable ice packs, ice baths, or coolant sprays.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is another therapy that has been around for hundreds of years. There are also several studies that show tai chi can help people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches and other pain conditions.

To do tai chi, you’ll move fluidly through a series of movements. The movements are sort of like yoga but with a greater degree of movement. The nice part is that tai chi isn’t jarring like many other forms of movement.

The Tai Chi for Health Institute offers a ton of information and you can even sign up for online lessons. I’ve never tried tai chi, but I have many friends who swear by it!


TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) units used to be available by prescription only but now you can buy these over the counter. TENS units work by sending small electrical pulses along nerve strands. I’ve been using a TENS unit for years and I think it does take the edge off.

There are several over the counter brands such as IcyHot Smart Relief, TENS 7000, Aleve Direct Therapy, and iReliev TENS. Prices range from $27 – $80. These are very easy to connect and use and are relatively inexpensive.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help a variety of pain conditions. To participate in physical therapy, you will need a prescription from your healthcare provider.

At your first visit for physical therapy, the therapist will ask you some questions, take some measurements, and then they will develop your plan. It’s not unheard of to go to the therapist 3 days a week for treatment.

The therapist will help you through specific movements, stretches, and may even apply heat or cold therapy. The number of treatments you can have from a therapist is usually determined by your insurance but if the therapy is working, you can always ask for additional treatment.


Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine and it too, has been around for thousands of years. There are studies that show acupuncture helps back and neck pain, knee pain, headaches, and even fibromyalgia.

To get started with acupuncture, you need to find an acupuncturist. I’d advise to look for someone who is licensed and certified in acupuncture. You can search Acufinder to find someone in your area. Be sure to check with your insurance because they may cover some of the treatments.

Topical Creams

There are several different types of pain creams you can get without a prescription. My favorites include Aspercreme (it doesn’t smell and it has a little bit of numbing medicine in it), Penetrex (a little more expensive but works great on elbows), and Biofreeze – one of my patients told me about this – works great and doesn’t smell!

What non-prescription ways do you manage your pain? I’d love to hear more!

Until next time ~ Dr. JB Kirby

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