Step 4: Consult nonphysicians.

Managing pain often involves taking control of your body. The three methods below are physical approaches you can try without a prescription. But “without a prescription” doesn’t mean “without a doctor’s knowledge.” You should always tell your doctor about methods you try.

Acupuncture. The largest acupuncture study ever conducted shows that the technique significantly reduced pain and improved function for 570 patients with knee osteoarthritis who had moderate or severe pain despite taking anti-inflammatory or pain medications. The study also showed that acupuncture, like many complementary treatments, requires patience. Although people in the study had a 40 percent reduction in pain from acupuncture, they did not begin to benefit significantly more than the sham acupuncture group until week 14 of the 26-week study.

  • Massage. Two thousand years ago, Hippocrates advised doctors to gain experience in “rubbing that can bind a loose joint and loosen a hard joint.” Massage remains popular today and can provide temporary pain relief.
  • There are numerous ways to press the flesh, from full-body Swedish massage; to deep-tissue massage that uses pressure and slow strokes on deeper muscle tissue to relieve tension; to myofascial release, which uses long, stretching strokes to relieve tension around the connective tissue of the muscles.
  • Ultrasound. Using sound waves to penetrate tissues and provide heat, ultrasound may be useful for relieving pain and inflammation caused by injuries to soft tissue, muscle spasms and arthritis in a specific location such as the hand. Ultrasound treatments are performed by physical therapists or occupational therapists.

Step 5: Calm the mind to calm the body.

Easing anxiety, reducing emotional distress or depression and getting better sleep may help reduce pain, improve the ability to enjoy life again, increase the ability to cope and improve psychological well-being – the main goals of chronic pain management, according to the American Pain Society.

Tuning out or turning down arthritis pain may be possible through psychotherapy techniques such as:

•    Hypnosis. An induced form of relaxation requiring self-motivation and practice, hypnosis can help some people manage pain or shift their attention from it. How does it work? In a nutshell, hypnosis gives your normally subdued subconscious mind control and gives your overworked conscious mind a break, allowing you to reach a state of deep relaxation.

•    Biofeedback. People in pain can learn to control their body’s responses to pain triggers. With biofeedback, sensors connect the body to a machine showing how thoughts and actions can affect the autonomic nervous system, which controls the involuntary action of the heart, lungs, stomach and intestines as well as the release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline or cortisol, from glands. Learning how to control involuntary responses like breathing and heart rate may allow other physical reactions to be controlled, too.

•    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). If you’ve ever received unexpected bad news, your body probably reacted with a strange sensation in your gut. Although the pang isn’t pleasant, it provides more proof that what your body feels is connected to what your mind thinks. Psychotherapists using CBT help people understand that connection and learn to control their thoughts so they can control feelings and physical reactions.