Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

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

Noninvasive physical, integrative, thinking and behavioral, and psychological methods can be used along with drugs and other treatments to manage pain during all phases of cancer treatment. These interventions may help with pain control both directly and indirectly, by making patients feel they have more control over events. The effectiveness of the pain interventions depends on the patient's participation in treatment and his or her ability to tell the health care provider which methods work best to relieve pain.

Physical Interventions

Recommended Related to Cancer

Roles for the Family Caregiver

The family caregiver has many roles besides giving the patient hands-on care. Most people think first of the physical care given by a family caregiver, but a caregiver fills many other roles during the patient's cancer experience. In addition to hands-on care, the caregiver may also do the following: Manage the patient's medical care, insurance claims, and bill payments. Be a companion to the patient. Go with the patient to doctor appointments, run personal errands, cook, clean, and do...

Read the Roles for the Family Caregiver article > >

Weakness, muscle wasting, and muscle/bone pain may be treated with heat (a hot pack or heating pad); cold (flexible ice packs); exercise (to strengthen weak muscles, loosen stiff joints, help restore coordination and balance, and strengthen the heart); changing the position of the patient; restricting the movement of painful areas or broken bones; or controlled low-voltage electrical stimulation.

Integrative Interventions

Integrative interventions include massage therapy, acupuncture, and music.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy has been studied as part of supportive care in managing cancer-related pain. Massage may help improve relaxation and benefit mood. Preclinical and clinical trials show that massage therapy may:

  • Stimulate the release of endorphins (substances that relieve pain and give a feeling of well-being).
  • Increase the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid.
  • Strengthen the effects of pain medications.
  • Decrease inflammation and edema.
  • Lower pain caused by muscle spasms and tension.

Physical methods to help relieve pain have direct effects on tissues of the body and should be used with caution in patients with cancer. Studies suggest that massage therapy may be safe in patients with cancer with the following precautions:

  • Avoid massaging any open wounds, bruises, or areas with skin breakdown.
  • Avoid massaging directly over the tumor site.
  • Avoid massaging areas with deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in a vein). Symptoms may include pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the affected area.
  • Avoid massaging soft tissue when the skin is sensitive following radiation therapy.

(For more information on massage, see Exercise 2 in the following section.)

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an integrative intervention that applies needles, heat, pressure, and other treatments to one or more places on the skin called acupuncture points. Acupuncture may be used to manage pain, including cancer-related pain. See the PDQ summary on Acupuncture for more information.

    1|2|3|4|5
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    A common one in both men and women.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Do you know the symptoms?
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article