8 Alternatives to Prescription or OTC Painkillers

Dealing with pain can keep you from the life you want to live. After all, even simple movements can be a painful reminder that something is not right with your body.

Reaching for something in your medicine cabinet may seem like an easy answer. There are, however, other alternatives you should know about to help with your pain.

Thinking about treating your pain more holistically? Sick of dealing with the risks and side effects of prescription or over-the-counter pain medications?

Let’s take a look at some alternatives to pain medications.   

Why choose natural alternatives to pain medications?

Everyone has their reasons for wanting to treat their pain more naturally. Some people may want to holistically treat the cause of their pain instead of looking for an easy--often temporary-- solution. Natural alternatives may address the cause of the pain instead of numbing it for a short period of time.

Others are leery of the side effects of some medications. Drugs designed to help pain may cause other unpleasant issues. For example, some over-the-counter medications can contribute to stomach or kidney problems in the long term. Prescription painkillers often have a long list of side effects--constipation, drowsiness, nausea, and dizziness to name a few. Some natural alternatives have little, if any, concerning side effects.

Furthermore, some pain medications run the risk of becoming habit-forming or addictive. This is especially true if you have a personal or family history of substance abuse or addiction. After all, about 12 percent of people prescribed painkillers end up suffering from opioid use disorder. 

How serious is opiate addiction? Even if you passively check out local and national news headlines, you’ve probably heard stories about the opioid epidemic and the many lawsuits filed against drug makers across the country. Sadly, some individuals legislatively prescribed opiates can become physically dependent on the medication. They may eventually take more of the drug to get the desired effect. As a result, they could be risking their lives. In 2016, over 40 percent of overdose deaths were caused by prescription opioids.

Ready to consider some natural alternatives to pain medications?

Before We Get Started: A Word of Caution

There isn’t one simple solution for treating pain. Look at it this way: you wouldn’t seek the same treatment for a sprained ankle, migraine headache, and fibromyalgia. While natural alternatives certainly have a therapeutic purpose for some causes of pain, they are in no way a substitute for a thorough examination and evaluation from a doctor or medical professional.

It’s always prudent to consult with your doctor before pursuing alternatives to pain medications.

With that said, let’s take a look at some ways you can help your pain without going to the medicine cabinet.

Non-Invasive Pain Relief

Minor aches and pains may not even need medications. There are some easy things you could try which may not even cost you a dime. Let’s take a look at some non-invasive ways to help you feel better.

Heat and Cold Therapy

Applying an ice pack or heating pad to your source of pain may be helpful--especially if you are suffering from muscle pain. In general, ice helps to numb the pain and reduce inflammation to the area shortly after an injury. Heat therapy is a great way to relax the muscles and improve circulation to the area. Improved circulation helps hasten the healing process by supplying oxygen and other nutrients to the injured area.


Regular exercise has many benefits from those suffering with pain. In fact, exercising can release some of the same “feel good” brain chemicals that prescription drugs stimulate.

Exercise also helps strengthen muscle groups and increase flexibility. This helps those with neck or lower back problems. And don’t forget: exercise can help you shed some extra weight which may actually be contributing to your pain.

Of course, if you just sprained an ankle, you don’t want to go out for a jog to help with your pain. Before starting any new exercise routine, get the guidance of your doctor or even a physical therapist for the most appropriate exercises to help your condition.


Inflammation is one of the main reasons we feel pain. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to something not being right in the body. It usually occurs after an injury or trauma. Also, a routine diet of unhealthy, processed foods can actually increase inflammation in the body.

Choosing whole foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables can reduce inflammation throughout the body. Some supplements--more on this later--have also proven effective in decreasing inflammation.

Massage Therapy

A massage from a friend or loved one can be calming and relaxing. Why not take it to the next level? Licensed massage therapists have an intimate understanding of several health conditions causing pain. They use proven techniques to help relieve muscle tension and spasms, increase blood circulation to troubled areas, and relieve pain.

Discuss your pain and symptoms with a massage therapist before your session. They can suggest the most appropriate massage treating your source of pain.


Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine dating back over 3,000 years. The practice involves applying small needles, pressure, and heat to specific areas of the body based on your symptoms and physical condition. In theory, these needles help to unblock and redirect the body’s natural energy. Blockages and imbalances in the life force energy are believed to cause pain and illness.

While acupuncture took some time to gain popularity in the Western world, it is now accepted as a complementary treatment for conditions like osteoarthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and headaches. Given the fact that there are little to no side effects, it is certainly a treatment for pain worth checking out.

Pain Relief from Supplements

There are some natural supplements that may help reduce pain and promote general health in the body. Anyone who passed through the supplement aisle of a health food store could be quickly overwhelmed by all the options. Before you become paralyzed with all the choices, here are a couple you may want to try first for your pain.


Turmeric is grown throughout India as well as Central America and Asia. This relative of the ginger family has been used for generations to help with fatigue, breathing problems, and pain. You could find this yellow spice in just about any grocery store. Supplements are also available as capsules, tablets, extracts, or even teas.

Turmeric has been subject to a variety of studies for its health benefits. Preliminary studies have found curcuminoids--one of the main active ingredients in turmeric--may help with osteoarthritis, skin irritation after radiation treatments, and preventing heart attacks after bypass surgery. Turmeric is also said to help reduce inflammation in the body.


Another relatively common spice available as a supplement is cloves. Cloves are used by some to add flavor to meat, rice dishes, and even desserts. The supplement is available as capsules, powders, and topical oils.

The active ingredient in cloves--eugenol--is actually used in some over-the-counter pain rubs. It’s thought that rubbing a small amount on your gums can help relieve toothache pain. In addition, cloves can help with headaches, arthritic inflammation, and nausea.

Those with bleeding disorders or who use blood thinners should consult with their doctor before using clove products.

Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements have a concentrated level of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids can decrease inflammation in the body which may lead to chronic diseases like cancer or diabetes. Also, fish oil has been used to promote heart health.

DHA--found in fish oil, may also help with gut health and decrease inflammation and muscle damage after exercising or working out.

Make sure you get fish oil capsules that have been filtered of harmful mercury.

Remember, always check with your doctor before starting any new supplement.

Be Proactive with Your Health

None of these suggestions are the “magic bullet” for treating all kinds of pain. They can, however, help you become less reliant on medications to feel better.

Don’t be afraid to explore new options for caring for yourself. You never know which natural alternative may be the answer to avoiding the medicine cabinet.

Guest post by Addictions

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