Chronic pain management: nonpharmacological therapies for chronic pain

FP Essent. 2015 May;432:21-6.


Nonpharmacologic therapies have become a vital part of managing chronic pain (CP). Although these can be used as stand-alone therapies, nonpharmacologic treatments often are used to augment and complement pharmacologic treatments (ie, multimodal therapy). Nonpharmacologic approaches can be classified as behavioral, cognitive, integrative, and physical therapies. Core principles in developing a treatment plan are explaining the nature of the CP condition, setting appropriate goals, and developing a comprehensive treatment approach and plan for adherence. Clinicians should become familiar with these interventions so that they can offer patients flexibility in the pain management approach. Effective noninvasive treatment modalities for CP include behavioral therapy for short-term pain relief; cognitive behavioral therapy for reducing long-term pain and disability; hypnosis as adjunctive therapy; guided imagery, diaphragmatic breathing, and muscle relaxation, especially for cancer-related pain; mindfulness-based stress reduction for patients with chronic low back pain; acupuncture for multiple pain conditions; combination manipulation, manual therapy, endurance exercise, stretching, and strengthening for chronic neck pain; animal-assisted therapy; and S-adenosyl-L-methionine for joint pain. Guidelines for use of these treatment modalities are based on expert panel recommendations in combination with data from randomized controlled trials.