Reducing pain without pills

Is it possible to relieve pain without popping a pill?

Pain can be so debilitating and most of us turn to an over the counter traditional painkiller for relief – but there are alternatives that some say work just as well.  Here we compare traditional painkillers alongside a range of alternative easily available options that may be worth considering.

So many pills…

Statistics from the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) tell us that approximately 27 million packs of over the counter products containing codeine are sold in the UK each year and in 2012 according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) nearly 65 million prescriptions for painkillers were dispensed in England alone.  As a nation, we take an awful lot of pills!

Traditional pain relief

So how do we deal with pain?  The majority of us use traditional pain relief for mild or moderate pain generally taking the form of over the counter painkillers or analgesics or sometimes prescribed medication aimed at relieving more severe pain.

These can be broken down into the following categories:

  • General pain – we tend to take paracetamol
  • Joint and muscle pain – we would choose non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.
  • Moderate to severe pain – we would traditionally choose opiate-based painkillers such as codeine, co-codamol, dihydrocodeine or morphine sulphate. Some of these can be obtained over the counter but others require a prescription.
  • Neck, shoulder or back pain – nerve painkillers may be prescribed in the form of amitriptyline or gabapentin.

Side effects

We are so used to taking the odd pill that we seem to forget there can be side effects.

Dr Alasdair Wright, our expert GP, explains “the liver can be seriously damaged if paracetamol is taken in excess.  It is, therefore, a particularly high-risk medication if the quantity absorbed by the body is not taken into consideration.

There are also risks with NSAIDs.  If used regularly they can cause gastrointestinal upsets and may affect blood pressure, kidney function, and the cardiovascular system.

As for nerve painkillers, they leave us feeling drowsy and opiate-based painkillers, such as codeine, can be addictive.  These sorts of painkillers should only be used short-term as their effectiveness diminishes the longer we take them.”

What can we take instead?

There are plenty of alternatives to the traditional painkiller and even ways to help our bodies manage pain alongside taking the traditional options.  Here are a few of the most common:

Natural supplements – as alternatives to NSAIDs Omega 3 fatty acids or fish oils can ease inflammation and pain, they are safer to take and can help with a variety of conditions such as arthritis.

Reflexology – this is a treatment based on the idea there are specific reflex areas on the feet, lower legs, hands, face or ear that correspond to different parts of the body.  Gentle pressure applied on these points may help symptoms and causes of pain.  “Reflexology encourages the brain to release chemicals that lessen pain signals,” says Dr Carol Samuel, a reflexologist from the University of Plymouth.  “With conditions such as osteoarthritis and backache, reflexology may be used alongside conventional medicine with great results.”

Acupuncture – the British Acupuncture Council tells us that traditional acupuncture takes the idea that pain is a sign that the body is out of balance and so by inserting ultra-thin needles into certain acupuncture points a natural healing response will be triggered so enabling the body’s vital energy to flow freely again.  Dr Wright explains that for those who respond well to acupuncture it can be a very effective way of reducing pain levels.

Relaxation and mindfulness – being stressed and anxious can make the pain worse so practising meditation, yoga or pilates may help to calm both body and mind and therefore reduce pain.

Read more on practising mindfulness for better health and reducing pain.

All of us are different and may respond to treatments in very different ways so if you are in any doubt as to how to manage your pain then you should consult with your medical professional.

All content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated at all as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Silversurfers will not be responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content on and we are also not liable for the content of any external websites or links from or to Silversurfers to any other websites. Please always consult your own doctor if you’re in any way concerned about any aspect of your health
The following two tabs change content below.

AXA Health

The more you know about your body and how you can look after it, the healthier you are – and the stronger and bolder you become. That’s why we never stop looking for ways to support your health. We want to give you the tools and knowledge you need to take care of yourself – so you’re ready to face whatever the world brings.

Leave a Comment!

Not a member?

You need to be a member to interact with Silversurfers. Joining is free and simple to do. Click the button below to join today!

Click here if you have forgotten your password
19th Dec 2019
Thanks for voting!
Mine came from Middletons
19th Dec 2019
Thanks for voting!
I find rise and recline furniture and an Adjustable Bed have made the world of difference to my many ailments.

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!