Learn to relax. There's no denying it: Being under stress can add to pain. Regardless of what causes pain, stress can make it worse or keep it around longer than necessary. "Stress heightens our awareness and feelings of discomfort," says Dr. Borenstein. And feeling pain adds to stress.

To help break this vicious cycle, try relieving stress by writing in a journal, talking with a counselor or trying the following relaxation techniques:

  • Guided imagery. Guided imagery helps take your focus off your stress and pain, by taking you to a mental journey to a beautiful, safe and pain-free place – perhaps the mountains where you vacationed as a child, the beach where you spent your honeymoon or the tropical island you have always dreamed of visiting. Imagine the place in as much detail as possible – the sights, the sounds, the feeling of the sand beneath your bare feet or the cool mountain air on your face. Take several deep breaths and enjoy feeling calm and peaceful before you open your eyes.
  • Progressive relaxation.  In progressive relaxation, you progressively tense and relax your body's muscles from head to toe. Begin with the muscles of your feet and calves, tensing and gradually relaxing them, and then continue until you have tensed and relaxed the muscles of your neck and face. Breathe deeply as you go.

Try acupuncture. Getting stuck with needles may seem more like a way to receive pain than a way to relieve it, but if other therapies haven't helped your pain, you may want to give acupuncture a try. A key component of Chinese traditional medicine, acupuncture involves inserting thin needles at particular points (called acupoints) on the body. Sometimes the needles are connected to a low-level electrical current (electroacupuncture) for a more powerful effect.

According to Chinese theory, stimulating acupoints can correct the flow of essential life energy called qi (pronounced &quotchee&quot) to optimize health or block pain. Western doctors believe acupuncture more likely works by prompting the body to release pain-relieving substances called endorphins.

Acupuncture has gained credibility in the medical community.

A National Institutes of Health panel concluded that acupuncture could help in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain and even fibromyalgia without the side effects of medications.

If you want to try acupuncture, make sure your acupuncturist is certified (the major certifying board for acupuncturists is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), is licensed by your state and uses sterile, disposable needles.