In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Noninvasive, Non-Pharmacological Treatments for Chronic Pain

Older Woman Receiving Physical Training on an Exercise Ball as Part of a Chronic Pain Management Plan

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

There are millions of people who suffer from chronic pain.  While many people turn to pharmacological or invasive treatments to seek relief and help manage the condition, there are others who focus on alternative treatments.  There are many alternative treatment options that those with chronic pain can engage in, but knowing which ones people have had success with may make it more appealing.

Treatments for Five Common Types of Chronic Pain

The researchers updated a prior report they had issued from 2018.  Their report looked at how effective noninvasive non-pharmacological treatments were for helping people with chronic pain.  In Addition from September 2017 through September 2019 published multiple sources that conducts assessment, in which they selected 223 randomized controlled trials.

Overall, they found that exercise, acupuncture, mindfulness practices, massage, mind-body practices, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation consistently improve function and/or chronic pain conditions.  In conclusion, the study shows which noninvasive non-pharmacological treatments work best for each of the five conditions:

Related Reading: Relieving Migraine Headache Pain with Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation

1. Chronic Low Back Pain

Psychological therapies provided small improvements, while exercise, low-level laser therapy, spinal manipulation, massage, yoga, acupuncture, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation helped improve function over a short and intermediate term.

2. Chronic Neck Pain

Exercise was associated with long-term general improved function, with Pilates improving.

3. Osteoarthritis Pain

Exercise was associated with small improvements in function and pain for the short and long term.

4. Fibromyalgia

Exercise, mind-body practices, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, tai chi, and acupuncture resulted in functional improvements.  Exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation improved the pain.

5. Chronic Tension Headache

Short-term pain relief resulted from spinal manipulation.

This study offers good news for those who suffer from all kinds of chronic pain, but specifically the five conditions the researchers evaluated.  It gives people hope that there are noninvasive non-pharmacological treatments for chronic pain that they can explore. Having some of these treatment options as part of a pain management plan is a good idea. They are cost-effective, easy to engage in, but have few if any side effects, and will likely bring some relief to people.

Online Master’s Degree in Pain Medicine

Pain Medicine online degrees are suitable for practicing health professionals from a wide variety of fields, including physicians, dentists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, and more. Consider enrolling in the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s online, competency-based certificate or master’s program in Pain Medicine.


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Comparative Effectiveness Review. Noninvasive Nonpharmacological Treatment for Chronic Pain. April 2020.

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Posted: May 28, 2020
<a href="" target="_self">Dr. Steven H. Richeimer</a>

Dr. Steven H. Richeimer

Steven Richeimer, M.D. is a renowned specialist on issues related to chronic pain. He is the chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California. He has written or co-written a large number of scientific articles about pain medicine. He recently published an instructive book and guide for pain patients. Dr. Richeimer has given numerous lectures to medical and lay audiences throughout the U.S.

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