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Nonpharmacological Management of Cancer Pain


Cancer pain

may be short-term or long-term. It may come and go. You may have pain if the tumor damages or blocks tissues, nerves, and blood vessels as it becomes larger. Some cancer cells may produce chemicals that cause pain. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery may cause pain. Pain management is an important part of cancer care.

Call 911 for the following:

  • You have severe chest pain and sudden trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel so depressed that you cannot cope.
  • You have problems thinking clearly.

Contact your healthcare provider or pain specialist if:

  • Your pain does not get better, or you have new pain.
  • You still feel anxious or irritable after your therapy.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or pain specialist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Go to rehabilitation as directed:

Rehabilitation may include physical and occupational therapy. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.

Keep a pain diary:

A pain diary may help track pain cycles so you know when and how your pain starts and ends. Include things that make your pain worse or better. Bring the pain diary to follow-up visits with your healthcare provider or pain specialist.

Prevent bed sores:

You may need an egg crate or air mattress on your bed to help prevent bed sores. If you cannot move by yourself, someone will need to turn you from side to side often.

Exercise as directed:

Ask your healthcare provider or pain specialist about the best sports or exercise plan for you. Exercise, sports, and activity may help increase your strength and control chronic pain.

Other ways to manage your pain:

  • Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat to the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.
  • Aromatherapy is a way of using scents to relax, relieve stress, and decrease pain. Aromatherapy uses oils, extracts, or fragrances from flowers, herbs, and trees. They may be inhaled or used during massages, facials, body wraps, and baths.
  • Biofeedback teaches your body to respond differently to the stress of being in pain. Healthcare providers may use a biofeedback machine to help you know when your body is relaxed.
  • Meditation: This therapy teaches you how to focus inside yourself. The goal of meditation is to help you feel more calm and peaceful.
  • Hypnosis is used to put you in a trancelike state and then suggest things that may help you manage pain.
  • Dietary supplements to ease cancer pain include vitamins, minerals, or herbs. Do not take any vitamins or supplements unless your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Acupuncture therapy uses very thin needles to balance energy channels in the body.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.