Home / Finding treatments with fewer risks


You may be able to reduce the amount of prescription painkillers you take while still managing your pain effectively. This may be accomplished by:

  • Changing your diet, exercise, smoking, and drinking habits can ease your pain.
  • Working with your doctor and pharmacist to balance your use of long-acting and short-acting medications. This can take some trial and error.
  • Taking a short-acting medication for “break-through” pain instead of increasing your dose of a long-acting pain-killer.
  • Carrying a short-acting painkiller with you for emergency use. Sometimes just knowing that you have something in your back pocket that will help ease the pain gives you the peace of mind to reduce your use of narcotics. This in turn will increase your energy and allow you to be more active.
  • If using nonprescription pain medications such as aspirin, NSAIDs, or Tylenol™, make sure that you use the right amount. Using too little makes it less likely that it will work, using too much makes it harmful. Record how much you are using and let your doctor or pharmacist know. Many prescription pain-killer drugs contain the same ingredients found in nonprescription medications.

Herbal medicines have been used to relieve pain since ancient times, but only a few have undergone thorough scientific studies. Without scientific studies, there is no way to know for sure if herbal medicines work, which conditions can be treated, or what dosages are most effective. However, they may help ease your pain without causing any problems other than their expense. Let your doctor know what you are taking and what works for you. Most doctors are not experts in these treatments but may be eager to learn about alternative approaches that help their patients. Let your doctor and pharmacist know about all herbals you take so they can determine if any of them interact with your other medicines.

Click on any of the topics below to learn more.