8 Ways To Manage Pain Without Drugs

The latest research review from the Cochrane Library suggests that, for most of us, paracetamol is no more effective than a placebo. It’s ineffective for 6 in 10 people suffering from post-operative pain, whilst only 1 in 10 of us who pops a little white pill for a nagging headache benefits from tangible relief.

So could painkillers be doing us more harm than good? Paracetamol has also been linked to heart, kidney and intestinal dysfunction, and research indicates that a short course of opioid-based medication may be enough to cause nerve damage resulting in chronic pain. 

Could the answer be “all in the mind” after all? Whether you’re dealing with a short term niggle or chronic condition, try our expert-approved steps to ditching the pill popping for good.


Mindfulness meditation can change your experience of pain as well as your attitude towards it. It has been found to reduce activity in areas of the brain which process pain, whilst increasing activity in areas involved in emotional regulation. Try Meditainment’s free guided meditation, provided to NHS chronic pain patients.


Don’t panic – you don’t necessarily need to dust off those long-neglected running shoes, or tie yourself up in knots at yoga. Joanne Marley, at the University of Ulster, suggests simply getting up and marching your way through the ads whilst watching TV – depending on your viewing habits, you could clock up to 3,000 steps a day.


Stand Up Straight

You don’t even need to move to experience the benefits of this one. Researchers have found that simply waving goodbye to your customary slouch can reduce sensitivity to pain.

Get a Massage

Massage has been found to be particularly helpful in alleviating lower back pain. Annoyingly, though, it seems to work best in combination with exercise.

Go Nuts

Include plenty of inflammation-fighting nuts, fruits, leafy greens and tomatoes in your daily diet, accompanied by whole grains and healthy oils. In one study, two-thirds of people with chronic neck and back pain who took fish oil supplements for 10 weeks were able to cancel their repeat prescriptions. Cut down on fried, processed and refined foods, fizzy drinks and alcohol, which can all exacerbate chronic inflammation and, by extension, pain.

Listen to Music

Weird fact – listening to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star can slash the pain caused by an electric shock by almost a fifth. Many of the neural pathways involved in processing pain may also be involved in processing music – so it pays to keep them occupied. Researchers suggest Mozart or Bach over Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Watch A Weepie Movie

In a recent Oxford University study, participants who had recently watched an emotional documentary were able to tolerate pain 18% longer than those who’d watched a less harrowing film. “The argument here is that actually, maybe the emotional wringing you get from tragedy triggers the endorphin system,” researcher Robin Dunbar concluded.

Eat More Spices

New research suggest spices might be the answer to preventing muscle cramps. A shot of spicy liquid such as wasabi or chilli with water may be more effective than eating a banana or pouring yourself an energy drink. Dr Rod MacKinnon has developed a spicy drink called Hotshot – a mix of ginger, cinnamon and capsicum or spicy pepper plants. This pocket-sized purchase is perfect to pack for long walks and can be easily recreated at home. 

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