10 Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

The reasons for chronic pain are numerous. Fortunately, alternative treatments are becoming more common. The following 10 alternative treatments are now getting some well-deserved attention.


Boswellia is a plant that produces Indian frankincense. It also contains an acid that may be an inhibitor of inflammation. Early clinical trials have shown that Boswellia can reduce pain and improve joint function in as quickly as seven days. Boswellia is generally taken as a capsule, but is also available as a cream for external use.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is state-of-the-art technology that allows people to immerse themselves in "virtual" worlds, usually via head-mounted displays (e.g., Oculus Rift). Virtual (or augmented) reality has already been used for pain management in a variety of ailments and conditions, including severe burn cases.


Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for healing. Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from plants. They can be smelled either by setting them out into a room or massaged into the skin. If you have every smelled a rose or lavender, you have experienced aromatherapy. Researchers are looking at the effectiveness of aromatherapy for everything from pain control after surgery to decreasing menstrual pain. So far, results have been promising.


Even though yoga has been around for centuries, modern medicine has just recently embraced it as a viable alternative for pain control. When researchers looked at 10 studies of individuals using yoga to treat back pain, they found strong evidence for short term and long-term effectiveness of yoga for treatment.


Biofeedback, also known as electroencephalography (EEG) feedback or neuro-feedback, has the potential to help ease chronic pain. It is based on the idea that by using your mind, you can control otherwise involuntary actions of your body, such as your heart rate, and make changes that promote relaxation and reduce pain.

Aquatic therapy

According to the Cleveland Clinic, aquatic therapy (also known as hydrotherapy) can decrease joint compression forces, reduce inflammation, and provide bio-feedback. Aquatic therapy has been proven to benefit those with chronic lower back pain and fibromyalgia.

Nutritional supplements

Different nutritional supplements can help with different types of pain. For example, bromelain comes from an enzyme in pineapple and can ease pain by reducing inflammation. B-complex vitamins are showing promise for nerve pain.


Most people have heard of acupuncture, but acupressure is also getting attention these days. Acupressure is a blend of acupuncture and pressure applied to the hundreds of acupressure points on the body. Acupressure is inexpensive and can be self-administered.

Animal therapy

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is the term used when animals are involved in treatment. For example, researchers studied how brief therapeutic dog visits in a waiting room could impact the pain of fibromyalgia patients. Significant improvements were reported for pain and mood compared to a control group.


Journaling involves recording thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It can be done in a private diary or on the internet (blogging). Writing has long been used in mental health settings. New thinking involves writing about chronic pain in order to decrease the pain. Journaling can also help to determine the patterns and triggers of pain.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Tracyshealthyliving.com. Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.