Non-Medication Options

Non-medication strategies play an important role in managing pain. You should use these strategies, as well as the medications your surgeon has recommended, to help your child recover. Using these methods may allow you to decrease use of opioids and avoid their side effects.

Some examples of non-medication pain management options are:


Deep breathing can decrease pain by relaxing the muscles. Exercises such as having your child think about their favorite memories can relax their body.

Special Foods

Special foods, such as ice cream or popsicles, can distract your child from their pain by giving them something enjoyable to focus on.


Doing art can calm your child and help them communicate how they are feeling without using words.


Listening to music can help your child relax and distract them from their pain.

Games and Play

Playing board games and video games can occupy your child by keeping their mind on something fun and entertaining. Favorite toys such as stuffed animals or building blocks can also help to distract your child.


Reading children’s books about surgery and emotions can help your child understand their own pain and feelings better. This may give them a sense of control and decrease their anxiety. Reading your child’s favorite books and stories together can also comfort them.

Increased Time with Your Child

Many children are comforted by the presence of their family. Spend time with your child and be a calming presence for them. Some children are relaxed by gentle touch and massage, which can help reduce pain.


Sleep helps the body heal. Help your child get the best night’s sleep possible by getting them to bed at their usual time and providing a relaxing and calm environment.


Make sure your child is drinking enough fluids and eating as normally as possible as long as there are no restrictions from your surgeon. Dehydration can worsen recovery and increase pain. Some signs of dehydration in children are:

  • Dry lips, mouth or skin
  • Decreased urination
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Lethargy (decreased energy)

Additional Non-Medication Resources

Michigan OPEN brochure on non-medication pain management.

document created by Michigan Medicine Child Life providing greater detail on non-medication strategies.

one-page flyer created by the Pediatric Trauma Group at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital focused on non-medication options for teens.