Sometimes pain can be difficult to relieve completely with medications. This may be the case both for people with cancer and for those who have responded well to cancer treatment and are in remission. Your doctor may suggest you go to a pain medicine specialist to discuss other options to improve your quality of life and enable you to be as active as possible.
Epidural or spinal medication
Morphine is delivered directly onto the nerves in the spine via a catheter (tube) to give good pain relief with fewer side effects than oral medication.
Spinal medication can be given by:
- Tunnelled spinal catheter – a small tube is put in the spinal fluid and then tunnelled out to the body’s surface via the skin. It is attached to an external pump, which delivers the medication.
- Port-a-cath spinal system – similar to the tunnelled catheter, but medication is delivered through an opening (port) attached to the tube under the skin of the chest or abdomen.
- Implanted catheter and pump – placed in the fatty tissue of the abdominal area. The pump is refilled every three months with a needle through the skin into the pump’s port.
Medication is injected into or around a nerve, so that nerve is no longer able to send pain messages.
There are other methods of pain relief that your pain medicine specialist may suggest:
- Intensive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) guides people to positively change the way they cope with pain.
- Desensitisation technique for neuropathic pain involves focusing on the pain but relaxing at the same time.
- Specialised physiotherapy helps reprogram the brain, for example, for phantom limb pain after an amputation.
- Radiofrequency treatment uses heat to destroy the nerves that are causing pain.
- Neuromodulation treatments change nerve activity through electrical pulses. These pulses cause the body to release a substance that stops feelings of pain.
- In rare cases, surgery on the brain or spinal cord (neurosurgery) can help relieve pain.