Other ways to control pain

For many people, some types of pain can be relieved through allied health services or complementary therapists.

Allied health care

Various allied health professionals support the work of doctors and nurses. Practitioners are usually part of your hospital MDT, or your GP can refer you to private practitioners as part of a chronic disease management plan. 

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies may help you cope better with pain and other side effects caused by cancer and its treatment. These therapies may increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood and quality of life. 

Let your doctor know about any complementary therapies you are using or thinking about trying. This is because some therapies may cause reactions or unwanted side effects depending on your conventional treatment and the pain medicines you are taking. You should also tell the complementary therapist about your diagnosis, as some therapies, such as massage and exercise, may need to be modified to accommodate the changes in your body.

Complementary therapies used to reduce pain:

  • Relaxation – Helps release muscle tension. It can help you sleep, give you more energy, reduce your anxiety, and make other pain relief methods – such as medicine or a cold pack – work more effectively.
  • Meditation – Focuses on breathing techniques and quietening the mind. There are different types. Mindful meditation encourages people to be more aware of their body, thoughts and surroundings. Visualisation uses your imagination to create pleasant thoughts to take the mind off the pain and give a more hopeful outlook.
  • Massage – A relaxing therapy that may increase your sense of wellbeing. It helps relieve muscle spasms and contractions, and joint stiffness. Avoid massaging the area with cancer.
  • Aromatherapy – The use of aromatic essential oils extracted from plants for healing relaxation. Mainly used during massage, but can also be used in baths, inhalations or vaporisers (oil burners).
  • Imagery – Can be used to distract your mind from pain or worries, or make you feel more in control of what is happening to your body. It involves using your imagination to think of shapes, colours, sounds – anything that helps you feel like you are in a particular place.
  • Hypnotherapy – This deep relaxation technique is used to help people become more aware of their inner thoughts. It has been clinically tested with good results for helping people cope with pain.
  • Art therapy, music therapy and journal writing – These techniques give you the opportunity  to express your feelings in different creative ways. The techniques also provide some distraction from the pain. You can be creative at home, or some hospitals and support groups offer professionally run programs.
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) – A battery-powered machine that delivers a mild electric current to the skin. This produces a pleasant sensation and relieves some pain. Many physiotherapists  offer this treatment.
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) – A type of talk therapy psychologists  use to help people identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours, and change how they respond to negative situations or emotions. It can help control anxiety and reactions to stress.
  • Heat and cold – Heat may relieve sore muscles, while cold may numb the pain.
  • Distraction – A simple technique of focusing on something other than the pain.

This information was last reviewed in September 2015
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