- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Pain and cancer
- Other ways to control pain
- Complementary therapies
Complementary therapies may help you cope better with pain and other side effects caused by cancer and its treatment. These therapies are used alongside conventional treatments. They may increase your sense of control, decrease anxiety, and improve your quality of life.
Let your doctor know about any complementary therapies you are using or thinking about trying. Depending on the conventional treatment and pain medicines you are having, some complementary therapies may cause reactions or unwanted side effects. You should also tell the complementary therapist about your cancer diagnosis, as some therapies, such as massage, may need to be modified to accommodate the changes in your body.
For more on this, see Complementary therapies.
|Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatments. They are unlikely to be scientifically tested and may prevent successful treatment of cancer-related pain. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies for cancer-related pain.|
|acupuncture||Uses fine, sterile needles placed under the skin into energy channels (called meridians) to stimulate energy flow.|
|aromatherapy||Uses 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).|
|creative therapies (art therapy, music therapy, journal writing)||Help you express your feelings in creative ways. The techniques also provide some distraction from the pain. You can be creative at home, or attend a program at some hospitals and support groups.|
|heat and cold||Uses heat to relieve sore muscles, and cold to numb the pain.|
|massage||Releases both muscular and emotional tension, and may increase your sense of wellbeing. It helps relieve muscle spasms and contractions, and joint stiffness. Avoid massaging the area with cancer.|
|mindfulness meditation||Focuses on breathing techniques and quietening the mind. It encourages people to be more aware of their body, thoughts and surroundings. It can help you change the way you think about experiences.|
|relaxation||Helps release muscle tension, and reduce anxiety and depression. 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.|
This information has been developed by Cancer Council NSW on behalf of all other state and territory Cancer Councils as part of a National Cancer Information Working Group initiative. We thank the reviewers of this information: Dr Tim Hucker, Clinical Lead, Pain Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Lecturer, Monash University, VIC; Carole Arbuckle, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Anne Burke, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA, and President Elect, The Australian Pain Society; Kathryn Collins, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof Roger Goucke, Head, Department of Pain Management, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Director, WA Statewide Pain Service, and Clinical A/Prof, The University of Western Australia, WA; Chris Hayward, Consumer; Prof Melanie Lovell, Senior Staff Specialist, Palliative Care, HammondCare Centre for Learning and Research, Clinical A/Prof, Sydney Medical School, and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Linda Magann, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care and Peritonectomy Palliative Care, St George Hospital, NSW; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, QLD.
Thank you to the Australian Adult Cancer Pain Management Guideline Working Party, Improving Palliative Care through Clinical Trials (ImPaCCT), and the Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care (University of Technology Sydney), whose work contributed to the development of the previous editions of this booklet. Thank you also to the original writers, Dr Melanie Lovell and Prof Frances Boyle AM.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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