Managing Chronic Pain Without Opioids

Many people are turning away from opioids and incorporating a range of techniques to combat chronic pain. In fact, a recent long-term study suggests that opioid treatment is often not superior to non-opioid treatment, specifically when it comes to chronic back pain and hip or knee osteoarthritis.1

Chronic pain management programs will vary from person to person and must take into consideration biological, psychological, and social factors.

Opioids come with potential risks and side effects
While opioids may be effective for some people with chronic pain, they should generally be approached with caution. Opioids come with a range of potential risks and side effects, including addiction, and there are many non-opioid treatments available that can help with chronic pain instead.

See When Are Opioids Appropriate?


What is a Chronic Pain Management Program?

A chronic pain management program will focus on providing well-rounded care that includes a variety of techniques and treatments to help a person cope with chronic pain. For example, a program may include non-opioid medication, exercise, and complementary health approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapies and acupuncture.

See Treating Chronic Pain with Acupuncture

A pain management program may incorporate several specialized doctors, including psychiatrists or psychologists. Often this is described as an interdisciplinary team, meaning a team of doctors with different background all working towards a similar goal.

Working with medical professionals
Generally, a key to living with chronic pain is to have the skills and support of a pain management specialist or team. A trusted physician or pain management specialist is equipped to make decisions regarding opioids and non-opioid alternatives for chronic pain.

See Pain Management Specialists’ Role in Patient Care

Alternatives to Opioids for Pain Management

There is a wide-ranging catalog of options when it comes to managing pain, including:

  • Non-opioid medication
  • Topical pain relief
  • Electrotherapy
  • Injections
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Complementary health approaches
  • Medical marijuana
  • Diet and exercise

This article will discuss common options to treat pain without the use of opioid medication.


  • 1.Krebs EE, Gravely A, Nugent S, et al. Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain: The SPACE Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(9):872-882.