If analgesic tablets or prescription painkillers aren't helping you manage your discomfort, it may be time to explore a more natural type of pain relief. There exists a range of therapies known as either complementary medicine (used in addition to traditional Western therapies) or alternative medicine (used in place of traditional Western therapies), and devotees have used them for conditions as minor as a headache and as major as cancer. The National Pain Foundation endorses a comprehensive list of nontraditional remedies, below. See which ones work for you:

  • Acupuncture. This ancient Chinese practice involves inserting long, thin needles into various points on the body. The idea behind this is that optimal health is achieved when energy flows freely through the body, and the needles remove any blockages of this energy. Acupuncture has been used successfully to alleviate pain from musculoskeletal issues as well as headaches.
  • Massage. Not just a perk for wealthy spa-goers, massage has in recent years come to be recognized as important to overall health. It reduces muscle tension and stress, can relieve soreness, and may even boost your immune system.
  • Biofeedback. This teaches you to focus on your body's response to pain and stress via a monitoring system that gives off sounds or visual cues whenever your muscles tense. Eventually you become able to use nothing more than conscious thought to change your physiological response to a particular type of stress on your body.
  • Hypnosis. Popular as a cure for smoking as well as overeating, hypnosis can also be used to manage pain. A trained clinician induces an altered state of consciousness, making you more receptive to suggestions of behavioral changes that can reduce your pain. For instance, if you suffer from chronic lower back pain, under hypnosis you might be taught to visualize your back muscles opening up. Some people can even learn to hypnotize themselves.
  • Guided imagery. This involves imagining yourself in a peaceful setting. The more detailed the scene, the more your mind can truly transport you out of your discomfort and into the soothing scene.

Are there any questionable pain-relief remedies? Yes. Think twice before relying on herbs. Health-food stores are full of herbal supplements purported to reduce pain, but be careful. The FDA does not regulate these supplements, and some of them have negative side effects, particularly when combined with over-the-counter pain medications.