Painkiller Alternatives for you

Painkiller drugs form an essential front of medical practice. They are extremely easily available and are relatively safe. Painkiller alternatives are also easily available if you know where to look for them.

Many types of agents act as pain-killers, such as Steroids, Opioids, Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs.

Out of these, the pills we often keep popping are NSAIDs.

Why alternatives?

Our body works painkillers through liver and kidneys. Thus, excessive use of painkillers takes a toll on them.

Many adverse effects also result from these pills. They include

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting,
  • Occult blood loss,
  • Allergy,
  • Poisoning etc.

This article will focus on painkiller alternatives for commonly seen painful conditions. Painkiller drugs are essential to medical practice and should not be replaced completely without professional advice.

Following painkiller alternatives are available with a Physiotherapist.


Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a modality which Physiotherapists use quite frequently. TENS reduces pain by stimulating nerve endings on the skin. It is a small portable machine with electrodes.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

Thomas671973TENSCC BY-SA 3.0

How to use it?

Your Physio puts electrodes on the painful area and turns the machine on. Usually, we use two or four electrodes.  When intensity increases, you feel tingling. This, in turn, stimulates your nerve endings and reduces pain.

How long does it last?

It lasts for around 10-15 minutes per session and 7-9 sessions per week.


  • No involvement of drugs.
  • No involvement of needles.
  • Instant reduction in pain.


  • Rashes, allergic reactions if the skin is too sensitive.

In what conditions can we use it?

We use TENS to treat pain in small areas. For e.g.

  • Joint Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Low Back Pain
  • Muscular Pain

2. IFT

Interferential Therapy (IFT) is also used frequently by the Physiotherapists. It is almost similar to TENS in its effects and application. An advantage of IFT over TENS is that it can be used for larger body areas.

IFT can be used in:

  • Sciatica
  • Back and low back pain
  • Joint pains
  • Neck pain, neck pain extending to arm
  • Shoulder pain

3. Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy speeds up the natural healing process of the body. This is different from sonography/ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound imaging shows deeper tissues of the body while Ultrasound therapy heals those tissues. Both of them have their special functions.

Ultrasound therapy consists of a small portable machine with a transducer head. That transducer head with gel is moved over the painful area as shown in the image.

Ultrasound over wrist

People undergoing ultrasound therapy are usually under the impression that the gel contains some drug. It is not so.

The gel is just a medium for the head to move freely.

Treatment duration: 3-5 minutes per session, 4-7 sessions per week. You won’t feel anything except a little bit of heat at the end of a session


  • No involvement of drugs and needles
  • Enhances natural healing in the body

Used in:

  • Joint pains
  • Muscular pain
  • Heel pain
  • Pain due to inflammation
  • Ligament injury pain

4. Therapeutic Taping

Taping is a technique of applying specific tapes for treatment purposes.

Physiotherapist applies tape following a distinct approach. As a result, there is a reduction in pain.

alternative ankle taping

Duration: It depends on your pain and the type of tape your physiotherapist uses. Usually, it ranges from 1-5 days


  • Muscle pains
  • Ligament injury pain
  • Trapezitis
  • Pain in front of the knee (Prepatellar Pain Syndrome)

5. Dry needling

This technique has little research evidence but it is quite frequently used in the clinical setting.

needling for leg pain

It is mainly used for Trigger point release. Trigger points are spots in muscles which when pressed, lead to pain in a bigger area. Therapist inserts sterile hypodermic needles in the trigger point for their release.

Difference between Acupuncture and Dry Needling:

Both of these techniques use similar needles.

Acupuncture focuses on aligning Energy/Chi in the body.

Dry needling focuses on releasing trigger points. It is based on established anatomical knowledge.

6. Heat and Cold

This is the oldest trick in the book.

Heat and Cold

Mamun2aCold Hot PackCC BY-SA 4.0


We use cold packs for acute pain. For example when the duration of pain is less than 2 weeks.


We use hot packs for chronic pain. Chronic pain is the pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing.

Contrast Therapy:

It refers to alternate compresses of cold and heat over a painful area. It is mostly used in Ligament injuries.

7. Exercise and Manual Therapy

Exercises and Manual manipulations are the cornerstones in Physiotherapy practice. Usually, there is an imbalance in muscle strength and inflammation. As a result, pain keeps on coming back. Painkiller pills act on the pain itself and not on the root cause of pain. Exercises and manual therapy correct those imbalances and reduce pain.

All the options mentioned earlier are used in support to Exercises and Manual Therapy.

hand manipulation for pain


Although painkiller drugs are very much easily available, they come with their set of adverse effects. Not every situation demands dedicated painkiller drug course. Hence, it is beneficial to explore other authentic options available.

In many instances, alternative therapies are coupled with painkillers to improve reduction in pain. To conclude, people, know your options and choose what suits you best.


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