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The Physio who gave up on Drugs

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

The new doco "The Doctor who gave up on Drugs” has reassured me that more and more patients are seeking alternative ideas for reducing pain without medication. So let’s dive right in! Some Ideas from my Physio Friend Doug Carey – AAP Education.

When considering what medications to use, individuals need to make informed decisions, balancing the research, the pros and cons (often a long list of side effects) and also examining alternative evidence-based options. Here are some alternative measures that can be used to modify pain.

Pain Management Education

Now I must admit that a lot of people just want to pop a pill and part of our responsibility is to explain the obvious, that is, having a longer-term plan (with more than one strategy) for a longer-term problem. Research has shown that as load/stress (physical or emotional) increases, so do symptoms. As a clinician helping clients better manage their pain, teaching pacing and appropriate goal setting is critical. For further information on pacing strategies and goal setting. See here.

Appropriate Exercise – My Favourite

Tied in with pacing, exercise is known to create so many positives:

  • ​Sense of accomplishment through planning and achieving

  • Enhancing mental wellbeing

  • Circuit breaker on brain worry/rumination

  • Counter production of stress hormones

  • Positive effect on muscles, bones, and joints

  • Create a degree of physical fatigue and assist with sleeping

  • Helping maintain healthy body weight, lower BPKeep the GI tract functioning, and resist constipation.

The key is finding a baseline for our clients, agreeing on an appropriate form(s) of exercise and developing realistic expectations and a timeframe for progression. We have so many options at Movement Solutions. Feldenkrais for those with a LOT OF PAIN, and pilates, yoga, aerial yoga for those with mild levels wishing to strengthen and balance.

Mindfulness Awareness/Relaxation Training

Living in the moment seems obvious, but honestly, we can find ourselves dwelling a lot of time in the future (what ifs) or the past (Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days), neither of which we can change. Mindfulness assists in quality of life and pain management through the process of breathing techniques and active relaxation. We all breathe, yet in times of pain, anxiety, and stress, it is often the first thing we change, going from relaxed deep breathing to shallow, apical and hyperventilation.

Learning how and practising intentional slow breathing is beneficial in several ways;

​Activates the vagus nerve, the primary cranial nerve, which is associated with a recuperative state. Increases alpha waves in the brain, calming mid-range waves that foster a relaxed yet alert state of mindSlow breathing tends to increase heart-rate variability

I teach techniques like box breathing and diaphragmatic breathing to assist in pain management. Swimming is another form of intentional breathing where you rapidly inhale and slowly exhale.

Anti-Inflammatory Alternatives



We stock and use


Micro Currents (MC) & Trans Cutaneous Electrical Stimulators (TENS) 

Not for everyone, but certainly worth a trial in regards to managing pain and as an alternative to, or complementing with medications.

Supportive Aids

There is plenty of research that confirms what we see in the clinic; if you offload a painful structure, day-to-day activities become more enjoyable and comfortable. We use an extensive range of tape, braces, and orthotics to help modify loading.


Turmeric. Long used in Ayurveda medicine, the active ingredient is curcumin. A molecule that is difficult to be absorbed by the gut, but better when combined with a lipase = bioavailable curcumin. Research would indicate beneficial properties. See here

Glucosamine + Chondroitin Sulfate. The jury is still mixed research wise, but the supplement is safe to take and seems beneficial for those with moderate+ OA. See here.

Fish Oil. When sourced with caution (heavy metal toxicity), research indicates it to be beneficial. See here.

UC-II and nTHIAA. A new class of supplements, combined they provide demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects and effectiveness in clinical studies of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. See here.

What have you found helps?

I am sure you have other ways to assist clients with pain, that don’t involve prescriptive medications. Love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and for your contribution.

For a full range of service offerings at Movement Solutions click Here.


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