The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that pain is experienced by nearly half of all cancer patients, with this percentage even higher among those suffering from advanced stages of cancer or in hospice care. Pain management becomes increasingly difficult as it affects a larger population, especially with limited resources for treatment. In addition to physical pain, cancer patients also suffer from emotional and psychological distress.
Pain is a complex experience influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors. In addition to the pain experienced from cancer, this population often endures treatment-associated side effects such as nausea/vomiting, constipation, lack of appetite, anxiety, and depression. Cancer patients are also more likely to have arthritis or other chronic pain conditions due to the risk of developing osteoporosis, decreased activity levels, or treatment-associated side effects that can influence pain. The best way to handle cancer pain is by visiting an Austin cancer pain specialist. However, we look at some of your options if you have this problem. Read on to learn more.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common type of medication prescribed to cancer patients. NSAIDs work by blocking pain receptors at nerve endings, causing inflammation, thus acting as an analgesic (pain reliever). However, you should never use prescription medications to manage cancer pain unless you have a prescription from your doctor.
Visualization involves focusing on an image or scene in your mind, resulting in a positive distancing from the pain or reducing stress levels. Guided imagery is similar but always involves a guide or teacher. You can learn to control the images that enter your mind and positively use them in guided imagery.
Meditation is used to clear your mind of all thoughts and focus solely on breathing. PMR is a series of exercises that progressively relaxes different muscle groups throughout the body, with the final step resulting in complete mental and physical relaxation.
Palliative care aims to improve a person’s quality of life at any time rather than curing the disease. This treatment is often used in tandem with other methods such as chemotherapy and radiation with cancer pain. The main goal of palliative care is to manage pain and any other symptoms experienced by the patient.
Acupressure and Acupuncture
These therapies use pressure from the fingers, thumbs, or even elbows on specific points of your body to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals released by the brain that block pain receptors and induce a general sense of calmness and well-being.
Heat and Cold Therapy
Both heat and cold therapies can be used to manage pain. Heat therapy uses moist heat, which is believed to relax your muscles, while cold therapy dulls painful stimuli due to the numbing effect of reduced blood flow in the area. Acupuncture is also used along with electroacupuncture which involves applying electric pulses to specific areas of the body.
To summarize, pain is a common problem for cancer patients, especially those with limited treatment options. You can see a cancer pain specialist for treatment. They may recommend different treatment options depending on your cancer and the severity of the pain. Standard therapies include acupuncture and acupressure, heat and cold therapy, prescription medications, palliative care, and relaxation techniques.