Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Heat and Cold Treatment for Cancer Pain

Heat and cold treatments can help with mild to moderate pain from cancer. But talk to your doctor before trying either of these during chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Heat may relieve sore muscles. Use a heating pad, a gel pack, or a hot-water bottle. Or you can take a hot bath or shower. Apply heat for no longer than 10 minutes at a time. To avoid burning your skin, do not apply anything that is uncomfortably warm.

Cold may ease pain by numbing pain sensations. Use a gel pack that stays soft even when frozen, or a bag of frozen peas, or ice cubes wrapped in a towel. Apply for no longer than 10 minutes at a time. And don't keep a cold pack on for so long that you are shivering or that the cold causes more pain.

When using heat or cold treatment:

  • Don't apply heat or cold to skin that may be red or tender from radiation treatment.
  • Don't apply heat to an area where the skin is broken or injured, because heat can increase bleeding.
  • Don't apply heat or cold packs directly to bare skin. Put a thin towel or pillowcase between the pack and your skin.
  • Don't use heat or cold in an area where you have poor circulation.
  • Try alternating heat and cold.

After a heat or cold treatment, try some gentle massage for relaxation and pain relief.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMichael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology

Current as ofNovember 14, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas