What Do You Do When Pain Management Doesn't Work? 14 Tips

Medically Reviewed on 5/3/2022
What Do You Do When Pain Management Doesn't Work
If you suffer from chronic pain, it can be frustrating when your pain medications are no longer effective. Here is what you can do when pain management doesn’t work

If you suffer from chronic pain, it can be frustrating when your pain medications are no longer effective or don't work as well as they should. 

Learn what you can do when pain management doesn’t work and how you can work with your doctor to find relief.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for three months or more and is usually seen in conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, and cancer. It can also occur following an injury or infection, such as herpes

Chronic pain can significantly affect your daily life, making it difficult for you to perform daily activities or even sleep. It can also lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Why do my pain medications not work anymore?

Pain management aims to control symptoms and improve quality of life. However, over time, your body can develop a tolerance to medications such as opioids, which are analgesics often prescribed for pain.

Reasons pain management may not work or stop working include:

  • Tolerance: Your body may develop a tolerance to the pain medication, as it increases the number of binding sites or receptors needed for pain control.
  • Medication interference: Other supplements or medications you are taking may interfere with the absorption or action of your pain medications, thereby making them ineffective.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use, alcohol, consumption, and caffeine intake can make pain management difficult.
  • Severe tissue damage: Some people may develop severe tissue damage or inflammation that can be only relieved by surgery, such as joint replacement or nerve decompression surgery, and not pain medications.

14 things you can do when pain management doesn’t work

If your pain management doesn’t work, your doctor may recommend the following:

  1. Increased dosage
  2. Change in prescription to a different drug category or class
  3. Assessment for possible drug-drug interaction or drug-food interaction
  4. Painkiller patches, creams, or ointments
  5. Nerve blocks or electrical nerve stimulation
  6. Steroid or numbing injections
  7. Pharmacogenetic analysis to determine medications that will help you the most based on your genes
  8. Other medications, such as antidepressants or anti-seizure medications
  9. Biofeedback to reduce your pain and stress levels
  10. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  11. Alternative medicine, such as herbal supplements, acupressure, acupuncture, reiki, hypnosis, or massage therapy
  12. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga
  13. Physical therapy to improve your range of motion or flexibility and reduce pain
  14. Occupational therapy to help you do your daily tasks with less pain or discomfort

What lifestyle changes can help with pain management?

Certain lifestyle changes can help you cope with pain better:

  • Eat a nutritious diet rich in whole foods 
  • Stay hydrated
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight can put more pressure on your joints
  • Avoid addictive substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine
  • Relieve stress through hobbies such as painting, music, or reading
  • Ask your doctor about support groups you can join or clinical trials you can enroll in for pain management


Medically speaking, the term "myalgia" refers to what type of pain? See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 5/3/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

National Institutes of Health. Pain: You Can Get Help. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/pain-you-can-get-help

University of Utah Health. Painkillers don’t work for me anymore – Am I Normal? https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_2ej8lout