FAST FACTS: Non-Drug Treatment: Positioning


Positioning means assisting your family member to change to or stay in a comfortable position


Benefits of Positioning:

  • Helps with pain management
  • Decreases risk of complications sure as bedsores
  • Helps maintain range of motion

Guidelines for Positioning and Stretching:

  • Use pillows to support your family member
  • When your family member is laying on their side, make sure their ear is flat on the pillow and not turned under.
  • A full body pillow can be used to position your family member on their side.
  • Gently bend and straighten arms and legs while helping your family member turn; do not force joints or muscles beyond a place of comfort. 
  • Use your family member’s reactions as a guide for what is comfortable.
  • If your family member is able to sit up, suggest they pretend to “write” the alphabet in the air using their feet or arms to support stretching and range of motion.
  • They can alternate arms or feet writing six letters at a time
  • Example:  Right Foot - A, B, C, D, E, F     /     Left Foot - G, H, I, J, K, L

What Else You Should Do:

  • Write down and share information about your family member’s pain with their healthcare provider
  • Use a Pain Diary to note important information useful to the healthcare provider
  • Encourage your family member to try a non-drug treatment and document the impact on their pain in their Pain Diary


1. Adapted from: Fouladbakhsh, J.M., et al., Nondrug therapies for pain management among rural older adults. Pain Manag Nurs, 2011. 12(2): p. 70-81. 2. The Nursing Home Pain Management Algorithm Clinical Trial, R01 NR009100,  7/1/05 – 4/30/10; Mary Ersek (PI) Used with permission of Mary Ersek and HPNA (2009). 

Revised January 2022

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