How Was Pain Treated in Ancient Times?

Pain is an unpleasant sensation that we all experience at some point in our lives. While modern medicine has made great strides in pain management, the history of pain treatment is much more primitive. In ancient times, people used various methods to alleviate pain, and some of these methods may seem bizarre by today’s standards.

The use of natural remedies

One of the earliest methods of pain relief was the use of natural remedies. Ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used herbs and other plant-based remedies to treat various ailments. For instance, the ancient Egyptians used opium poppy to alleviate pain, while the Greeks believed that willow bark could reduce fever and inflammation.


Bloodletting is a practice that involves draining blood from a patient’s body with the aim of curing illness or relieving pain. This method was used in ancient Greece and Rome, and it involved cutting the patient’s skin to let out blood. The belief behind this practice was that it would restore balance to the body’s humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile).


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body to alleviate pain or treat various illnesses. The belief behind this practice is that it helps restore balance to the body’s energy flow or Qi (pronounced “chee”). While acupuncture remains a popular form of alternative medicine today, its effectiveness in treating pain remains a subject of debate among scientists.

Religious practices

In many ancient cultures, religious practices were intertwined with medical treatments. For example, some Native American tribes believed that dancing around a fire could cure illness and relieve pain. In medieval Europe, people would visit shrines and holy relics with hopes of miraculous healing.


Surgery was also used as a method of pain relief in ancient times. However, it was a risky procedure that often led to infection and death. Before the development of anesthesia, patients undergoing surgery would have to be restrained to prevent them from moving or screaming in pain.


While the methods used to treat pain in ancient times may seem barbaric by today’s standards, they were the only options available at the time. It’s important to note that some of these methods, such as natural remedies and acupuncture, are still used today in modern medicine. As we continue to make advancements in pain management, it’s crucial that we look back at our history and appreciate how far we’ve come.