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Pain (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Physical, Integrative, Behavioral, and Psychosocial Interventions

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There are two main types of music intervention, music therapy and music medicine:

  • Music therapy is given by a trained specialist. The music used may be live or recorded. Therapy may include music improvisation (making up music), song writing and singing, and relaxing to music. The music therapist bases treatment on the patient's needs, such as controlling pain, decreasing anxiety, or learning new coping skills.
  • Music medicine is listening to music (usually recorded music) to take attention away from the pain. Music medicine is guided by a medical professional who does not have specialized training in music therapy.

The use of music for pain related to cancer is still being studied.

Music is also used in relaxation exercises. See the next section, on Thinking, Behavioral, and Psychosocial Interventions.

Thinking, Behavioral, and Psychosocial Interventions

Thinking, behavioral, and psychosocial interventions are also important in treating pain. These interventions help give patients a sense of control and help them develop coping skills to deal with the disease and its symptoms. Beginning these interventions early in the course of the disease is useful so that patients can learn and practice the skills while they have enough strength and energy. Several methods should be tried, and one or more should be used regularly.

  • Relaxation and imagery: Simple relaxation techniques may be used for episodes of brief pain (for example, during cancer treatment procedures). Brief, simple techniques are suitable for periods when the patient's ability to concentrate is limited by severe pain, high anxiety, or fatigue. (See Relaxation exercises below.)
  • Hypnosis: Hypnotic techniques may be used to encourage relaxation and may be combined with other thinking/behavior methods. Hypnosis is effective in relieving pain in people who are able to concentrate and use imagery and who are willing to practice the technique.
  • Redirecting thinking: Focusing attention on triggers other than pain or negative emotions that come with pain may involve distractions that are internal (for example, counting, praying, or saying things like "I can cope") or external (for example, music, television, talking, listening to someone read, or looking at something specific). Patients can also learn to monitor and evaluate negative thoughts and replace them with more positive thoughts and images.
  • Patient education: Health care providers can give patients and their families information and instructions about pain and pain management and assure them that most pain can be controlled effectively. Health care providers should also discuss the major barriers that interfere with effective pain management.
  • Psychological support: Short-term psychological therapy helps some patients. Patients who develop clinical depression or adjustment disorder may see a psychiatrist for diagnosis.
  • Support groups and religious counseling: Support groups help many patients. Religious counseling may also help by providing spiritual care and social support.
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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 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.
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