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Alternative medicine and pain relief

Alternative medicine and pain relief
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Holistic therapies for pain relief

If you live with chronic pain and you’re looking to ease your symptoms without medication, there are various options that don’t involve tablets. Whether you’d prefer to avoid medication altogether or you want to add a drug-free option on top of an existing treatment, there are many holistic options available.

weight, which can help reduce stress on the joints. You can also try acupuncture, osteopathy and TENS machines, which use electrodes to help combat pain in specific areas, as well as heat wraps, creams and gels.

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TENS machines

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)* uses electrodes to help combat pain in specific areas and is often helpful for people with long-term conditions.

The pain reliever wireless TENS helps to ease aches in the lower back, hips, elbows, and pain associated with strains and sprains. With a wireless remote control, it’s suitable for people who need pain relief from sports injuries, as well as those who have a long-term condition. Find out more about how TENS machines work to treat pain here.

The paingone® plus uses TENS-like therapy to relieve pain at the click of a button. Relief can last for hours and, if you need to apply again, you can do so.

*A TENS machine is not suitable for use during pregnancy or labour, or if you suspect you may be pregnant. It is also unsuitable for people with pacemakers or other implanted medical devices or heart rhythm problems.

Cancer patients and people with diabetes or epilepsy should seek medical advice before using this product. A TENS machine should not be used without supervision by children under 16 years of age.

Heat wraps

Heat therapy can be used to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Treating your back pain with a combination of painkillers as well as heat wraps can be effective

Drug-free topical gels

Flexiseq is a topically applied drug-free gel, specially formulated to combat pain and stiffness in your joints. Daily application in the morning and evening is enough to start to bring about real improvement in as little as two days. 

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Acupuncture is an ancient pain-relieving technique that originated in China. It involves puncturing key points on the body with long, thin needles – this stimulates nerves in the skin and muscles, encouraging the body to release pain-relieving endorphins.

Within the NHS, acupuncture is sometimes prescribed as a treatment for chronic pain, chronic tension headaches and migraines. It can sometimes be used to treat joint pain, dental pain and post-operative pain too.

Acupuncture is sometimes available on the NHS, but most of the time you’ll need to get it done privately. When looking for a practitioner, it’s recommended that you opt for someone who is:

  • A healthcare professional like a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist
  • A member of a national acupuncture organisation
  • You can find an accredited practitioner at the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care website.


    Osteopathy is a practice that uses stretching, moving and massage of the muscles and joints. It can be used to increase mobility and relieve tension and pain, which is why it’s recommended for people with the following conditions:

    • Lower back pain
    • Neck pain
    • Shoulder pain
    • Elbow pain
    • Arthritis
    • Pain and stiffness in the pelvis and hips
    • Sports injuries
    • Muscle and joint pain

    During an initial session with an osteopath you’ll be asked about your symptoms and general health. The practitioner will then touch and move your body to find areas that are weak, tender, injured or stiff.

    If necessary, they’ll refer you to your GP for testing. Otherwise, they’ll recommend a treatment plan that involves massage, stretching and other techniques such as articulation.

    Osteopathy is available in some areas on the NHS, but you’ll usually need to have it done privately. You can find a registered osteopath on the General Osteopathic Council website.


    Chiropractic is a type of alternative medicine where a practitioner uses their hands to relieve pain, stiffness and tension in the bones, muscles and joints. It can be used to treat pain in the back, neck, shoulder and elbow, as well as pain from osteoarthritis.

    During an appointment with a chiropractor, they will use different techniques to move, manipulate, pull and stretch your muscles, bones and joints. The experience can be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful.

    If you’d like to try chiropractic, speak to your GP first. They can advise whether it’s right for you, and let you know if there are any practitioners in your area.