Other Therapies & Strategies
Disclaimer: Painaustralia aims to provide consumers with information about pain management options. The listing of pain therapies, programs and resources on our website is not an endorsement of these options. Individuals should consult with their clinician about the best options for their pain management.
Chronic pain is complex and every individual will respond differently to different approaches – there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ pain management strategy. People living with pain are encouraged to take the lead in their pain management, with support from health professionals where possible. Some of the therapies and strategies listed below are more well-evidenced than others – consumers should talk with their clinician about available options.
According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture can be used to treat neurological pain, musculoskeletal pain and many types of sporting injuries. Studies have shown it is an effective treatment for chronic pain, and there is anecdotal evidence to support this. Find out more
Alexander Technique (AT)
AT is an individualised approach to help people recognise and understand the impact of poor posture on the body. With the help of an AT teacher, people are taught to be aware of their posture, and to change poor habits into good ones, in order to improve movement. AT works on the cause of loss of physical function, not the effects of it, and has proven results in improving low back pain. To find out more visit www.austat.org.au or read about 52 reasons to try AT.
Complementary medicines can be used in conjunction with or instead of traditional medical treatment. There is some evidence to suggest it can help with the management of chronic pain for some people. Chinese medicine practitioners, naturopaths and herbalists will help you find out more. You can also download the NSW ACI Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) fact sheet.
Dietary changes have the potential to help with pain symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve some chronic pain conditions, particularly for people with osteoarthritis or other musculoskeletal pain. Weight loss can be achieved by modifying your diet and reducing your intake of saturated fats and sugars. Daily low-impact exercise will also help. For others, a diet that reduces inflammation in the body can help with pain relief.
The Feldenkrais Method® is based on movement education. With the help of a Feldenkrais Practitioner, people learn to understand their particular habits of thinking, feeling, sensing and acting. The aim is to improve efficiency of body movement and increased consciousness of how it works. For people with chronic pain, Feldenkrais has proven ability to decrease pain and improve wellbeing and physical functioning. For more information visit www.feldenkrais.org.au and to find an accredited Feldenkrais Practitioner call 1800 001 550.
Meditation & Relaxation
Meditation and relaxation techniques help calm the mind and body. When muscles are relaxed, there is less pressure on nerves and body tissues, and this provides a natural form of pain relief. By practising meditation and relaxation techniques daily, your body will become used to the experience of calm and it will become easier for you to achieve this state. You may wish to try guided Buddhist or other meditation, or use simple strategies at home.
Resources: Relaxation (NSW ACI), Relaxation Exercise (painHEALTH)
Hydrotherapy can be useful in treating many different types of pain conditions. A hydrotherapy pool is heated to around 35 degrees Celsius which allows muscles to relax. Increased buoyancy allows for greater ease of movement and exercise than is permitted on land. Increased temperature and hydrostatic pressure enhances circulation and flexibility and decreases swelling. The benefits of hydrotherapy include pain relief, reduction in muscle spasm, increased joint range of motion, strengthening of weak muscles and increased circulation.
Low-Level Laser Therapy
LLLT uses LED light to reduce pain and promote tissue healing by blocking pain nerves and reducing inflammation, leading to a reduction in central sensitisation and improved circulation. It can be helpful for musculoskeletal pain, migraine, fibromyalgia, nerve pain and neuropathies including shingles and trigeminal neuralgia. Read more about LLT in The Lancet. There are LLT clinics in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Massage can ease pain by increasing blood flow to sore, stiff joints and muscles and by speeding up the flow of oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes muscles and reduces stress and anxiety. When looking for a massage therapist, make sure they have experience in pain relieving techniques.
Medicinal cannabis: Chronic non-cancer pain
There has been increasing interest in recent years regarding medicinal cannabis. However, there is a limited body of evidence to support its efficacy and safety in the management of chronic pain.
There is some evidence that medicinal cannabis can reduce neuropathic pain (nerve pain), but the reduction in pain may be small. Clinical evidence to support medicinal cannabis use to improve overall quality of life, physical functioning or better sleep is also limited.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) Guidance for the use of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain in Australia is available here.
Medicinal cannabis is not recommended as a first line treatment in any condition. Prescribing should always be considered on a case-by-case basis and once all other standard approved treatments have been unsuccessful. Read more.
Mindfulness is a special kind of awareness. It is achieved by learning to become aware of all your thoughts, feelings and body sensations in each moment, including pain. It involves learning to accept all of this without reacting to it and therefore becoming less overwhelmed by it. You can find a mindfulness course at mindfulnessworksaustralia.com.au.
Resources: Mindfulness (NSW ACI), Online course (Breathworks)
Music & Literature
Research has found that listening to music and reading literature can lower pain intensity and improve overall wellbeing. Music can reduce anxiety, fear, depression, pain-related distress and blood pressure, while literature can trigger pain-free memories and send new pain-free messages to the body. The type of music doesn’t matter; as long as you listen to music you enjoy.
A good night’s rest will help you cope with pain. While it may be difficult to achieve, there are things that can help. If you are having problems sleeping, try implementing a bedtime ritual, and keep your bedroom peaceful and relaxing. Meditation and mindfulness can also help.
Resources: Pain and Sleep (NSW ACI), Tips for a Good Night Sleep (Sleep Health Foundation)
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation is a pain treatment that sends an electrical impulse to the spinal cord to block pain signals travelling up to the brain, using implanted electrodes that are connected to a spinal cord stimulator (small battery-operated device). Download our Spinal Cord Stimulation fact sheet or read more on the Victoria Pain Specialists website.
TRE (Stress, Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) is based on the understanding that the neuromuscular system often immobilises the body through tension as a defensive response to stress, and that ongoing pain signals can be part of that immobility response. TRE allows people to physically release stress and tension, which can result in pain relief. Find out more at www.treaustralia.com.au.
Rehabilitation counsellors work with people with a disability, health condition or social issue which adversely impacts their lives. They aim to facilitate independence, participation in the community and personal wellbeing, and are often involved in getting injured people back to work. For more information visit www.asorc.org.au.
Yoga can reduce symptoms of pain, build confidence and provide physical activity, meditation and an opportunity for self-care. Once appropriate yoga techniques are learnt, people can use them daily as part of their pain management regime, while group yoga can help build a sense of connection with the community. It is important to find a Yoga Practitioner trained in pain management. You can find a Yoga for Pain practitioner here: www.yogaforpaincare.com. Find out more:
How to use yoga for pain relief
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It is a drug-free therapy that can be helpful in reducing many types of pain. The pain-relieving benefits of TENS therapy are comparable to massage, acupuncture, heat packs, over-the-counter analgesics and muscle relaxants. TENS can be self-administered at home and on demand with a TENS machine. For more information download the TENS fact sheet.