Pain is a signal which tells us that the body is presently experiencing situations that are not normal and unnatural. It can present itself in different ways like a sharp, stabbing pain or a gnawing kind that you cannot put a finger on what it really is. In general, pain greatly affects one’s functions in daily living.
Chronic pain impacts life.
Although the pain is primarily focused on inflicting physical discomfort on the one suffering it, it is important to acknowledge how a person gets affected on an emotional level. Being subjected to constant lingering pain, especially when it presents itself as a 10 in a scale of 1 to 10, affects the person’s mood, which will then cause problems in his relationships, and slowly destroy a person’s quality of life. It can also lower one’s self-esteem by being unable to do activities you normally do, whether at work or in the home.
Pain that is caused by an underlying disease is common for most cancer patients. According to studies, 1 out of 3 people who undergo cancer treatments experience pain, and those with advanced type of cancer (the recurring and the metastatic) are subjected to this as well. (Mayo Clinic, 2014)
Physically, cancer causes pain when the tumor grows and affects the nearby tissues, puts pressure on the surrounding nerves, bones or organs. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery also contribute to the pain a cancer patient may feel. Radiation leaves burning sensations in its wake and chemotherapy has physically painful side effects such as mouth sores, diarrhea and nerve damage.
Now that the significance of pain caused by cancer is established, are there non-medical ways of treating it?
There are two approaches when considering non-medical ways of treating cancer pain: one is to do it without the aid of medication or it can be taken along with the prescribed pain medication at a lower dosage.
While you have the option to employ non-medical ways of treating your cancer pain, it is still imperative to have a healthcare professional involved. Solicit the help and guidance your cancer team – your physician, physical therapist, nurses, psychologists, and involve your family and friends, as well, for support. It is also important to ask assistance from your cancer center for referral.
For centuries, the Chinese have used acupuncture as an alternative medicine to treat a myriad of diseases and it has been used in America for about 200 years. With the use of needles being placed on pressure point or acupuncture points, cancer patients use this as a relief from nausea and vomiting, fatigue, neuropathy, and anxiety among many other discomforts.
Biofeedback, Distraction, Hypnosis, Imagery, and Relaxation
The National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine grouped these non-medical techniques for treating cancer pain as relaxation techniques. It trains your mind to control the way your body works. They are designed to teach a cancer patient how to relax. Studies have been conducted worldwide and the results were compelling as the patients who underwent this research reports improvement in their quality of life.
Emotional Support and Counseling
As mentioned above, experiencing chronic pain because of cancer can affect a person’s well-being and their relationships too. Finding the appropriate emotional support and going through counseling will not prolong your life or treat the pain you are feeling, but it will help you and your family cope better. This will then lead to a more relaxed and calm frame of mind, which reduces the anxiety and may help in dealing with the pain.
Skin Stimulation: Massage,Pressure, Vibration and Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
These are non-pharmacologic interventions that help ease pain through neuromodulation and cutaneous stimulation. By using these techniques, they change the blood flow in the area that is stimulated. Precautions must be taken if you undergo radiation therapy where you must not use ointments on the treatment area.
Cold or Heat Therapy, Menthol
One of the oldest and most used by patients to treat pain, the use of cold and heat therapy has often been overlooked. Heat improves circulation and cell metabolism which will eliminate pain-producing substances, it can also act as a muscle relaxant. On the other hand, cold therapy decreases the blood flow on the area where it is applied, it also affects cell metabolism which prevents the production of pain-causing substances. Extra care must be taken when using this type of therapy to prevent incidences of burn.