Millions of Americans are in pain every day. Dan is one of them. Pain in his shoulder and back increasingly bothered him for years, even causing headaches and disturbing his sleep. The pain was so disabling that he was no longer confident that he could perform his daily job functions as a grocery store manager. At a doctor’s office, he debated taking opioids, but he decided against it because he knew of colleagues who became addicted and even died from taking the strong painkillers.

Fortunately, Dan doctor’s had other options and asked him to consider a regimen of physical therapy, acupuncture and an over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin, when the pain was at its worst. Over the course of a few months, Dan worked with his physical therapist to strengthen his body. As the pain began to lessen, his quality of life gradually improved.

According to pain specialists, non-drug therapies are often just as effective in treating pain as stronger opioid medications, without any of the dangerous side-effects. These include:

  • Physical therapy — A physical therapist can create an exercise program that helps you improve your ability to function and decrease your pain.
  • Acupuncture — This type of alternative medicine, which involves very thin needles inserted into the skin at specific places, can help interrupt pain signals. Increasingly, it’s used for overall wellness, including stress management.
  • Injections or nerve blocks — If you have a muscle spasm or nerve pain, injections with local anesthetics or other medicines can help short-circuit your pain.
  • Surgery — When other treatments aren’t effective, surgery may help relieve your pain.

The modern approach to pain management often involves a combination therapies to attack pain from different angles. Talk to your doctor about the best approach for you.