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Managing Cancer Pain

Physical and Psychosocial Interventions continued...

The following relaxation exercises may be helpful in relieving pain.

Exercise 1. Slow rhythmic breathing for relaxation *

  1. Breathe in slowly and deeply, keeping your stomach and shoulders relaxed.
  2. As you breathe out slowly, feel yourself beginning to relax; feel the tension leaving your body.
  3. Breathe in and out slowly and regularly at a comfortable rate. Let the breath come all the way down to your stomach, as it completely relaxes.
  4. To help you focus on your breathing and to breathe slowly and rhythmically: Breathe in as you say silently to yourself, "in, two, three." OR Each time you breathe out, say silently to yourself a word such as "peace" or "relax."
  5. Do steps 1 through 4 only once or repeat steps 3 and 4 for up to 20 minutes.
  6. End with a slow deep breath. As you breathe out say to yourself, "I feel alert and relaxed."

Exercise 2. Simple touch, massage, or warmth for relaxation *

  • Touch and massage are traditional methods of helping others relax. Some examples are:
  • Brief touch or massage, such as hand holding or briefly touching or rubbing a person's shoulders.
  • Soaking feet in a basin of warm water or wrapping the feet in a warm, wet towel.
  • Massage (3 to 10 minutes) of the whole body or just the back, feet, or hands. If the patient is modest or cannot move or turn easily in bed, consider massage of the hands and feet.
  • Use a warm lubricant. A small bowl of hand lotion may be warmed in the microwave oven or a bottle of lotion may be warmed in a sink of hot water for about 10 minutes.
  • Massage for relaxation is usually done with smooth, long, slow strokes. Try several degrees of pressure along with different types of massage, such as kneading and stroking, to determine which is preferred.

Especially for the elderly person, a back rub that effectively produces relaxation may consist of no more than 3 minutes of slow, rhythmic stroking (about 60 strokes per minute) on both sides of the spine, from the crown of the head to the lower back. Continuous hand contact is maintained by starting one hand down the back as the other hand stops at the lower back and is raised. Set aside a regular time for the massage. This gives the patient something pleasant to anticipate.

Exercise 3. Peaceful past experiences *

  • Something may have happened to you a while ago that brought you peace or comfort. You may be able to draw on that experience to bring you peace or comfort now. Think about these questions:
  • Can you remember any situation, even when you were a child, when you felt calm, peaceful, secure, hopeful, or comfortable?
  • Have you ever daydreamed about something peaceful? What were you thinking?
  • Do you get a dreamy feeling when you listen to music? Do you have any favorite music?
  • Do you have any favorite poetry that you find uplifting or reassuring?
  • Have you ever been active religiously? Do you have favorite readings, hymns, or prayers? Even if you haven't heard or thought of them for many years, childhood religious experiences may still be very soothing.

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