Treating cancer pain depends on things like the type of cancer you have, the extent of the disease, and your individual pain tolerance. While the source of the pain can vary, though, it can be controlled.
Your first step to relief is to ask for it. It’s critical that you let your doctors, nurses, and family know that you’re hurting; while it can seem easier to just “live with” the pain, there is no reason to continue going it alone.
Identify the Pain
Cancer pain can stem from physical factors, such as a tumor pressing on nerves, or from the side-effects of treatments like chemotherapy. Overwhelming emotions such as anxiety or depression can aggravate pain, and this pain can be chronic (long-term or recurring) or acute (short-lived but intense).
To conquer the pain, you have to identify it. Try keeping a journal, jotting down when the pain comes, where it hurts, how long it lasts, and its quality (sharp, throbbing, dull, etc.) and let your family know when you are hurting. The worst thing you can do is assume that your doctors and family know what you’re feeling; letting them know about your pain will help you get the best possible treatment for it.
How You Can Help Yourself
After you have spoken to your doctor about the pain you are experiencing, you will likely be given pain medication or other prescribed medical treatment. The following strategies should supplement your doctor’s prescribed treatment, and may require help putting into practice. If you need help, ask your doctor to put you in touch with people that can give you a hand.
Honor your emotions. Anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and grief are all emotions that can influence how pain affects you. Realize that these emotions play a role in the perception of pain and, if these emotions become overwhelming, ask your doctor to refer you to a counselor. You might also opt to join a cancer support group. Working through the emotions you have, and realizing that they are valid, is a huge step toward pain relief.
Take a walk. Walk regularly, if possible. Even taking brief, regular walks around your room can improve your circulation. Good circulation aids your body in metabolizing pain medication, making your treatment much more effective.
Exercise, if possible. Even gentle exercise can help release endorphins, which act as natural painkillers in your body. Get whatever exercise you can, within reason. Consult your doctor if you are unsure what kind of exercise is advisable, or if you need help learning exercises that will help.
Learn to relax. Stress-management techniques like meditation can help reduce the amount of pain you feel. The most basic relaxation technique is to sit quietly with your eyes closed, and focus on your breathing for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. See your breath moving through your body, watch it turn your blood red and healthy. Or, ask your doctor or nurse to recommend a relaxation audiotape; these are often a wonderful aid to meditation, leading your mind through proven effective techniques.
Get a massage. A good, thorough massage helps reduce emotional stress, which in turn reduces the amount of pain you feel. Massage also tends to relieve tight, tense muscles and help maintain your flexibility, both important in pain relief.
Natural Pain Relief Recipes
Each of the following recipes are made from 100% natural ingredients. You may need help creating them, so don’t be afraid to ask for it; there is no reason to go through this alone. These recipes should be used topically only; on the skin. Make sure that you check with your doctor to make sure that none of the ingredients will counteract with your medications.
Achy Muscle Treatment
Mix together ½ cup water, ½ cup linseed oil, and 4 tablespoons witch hazel. Scent with a few drops of pure essential oil if desired (lavender and chamomile are both good choices that calm frayed emotions). Use the resulting oil as a massage.
Pain Relief Salve
Mix together 1 ounce of chickweed (reduces inflammation and aids in healing of minor skin wounds), 1 ounce wormwood (a strong pain reliever), and 1 ounce yarrow (an anti-bacterial agent that also helps to relieve pain).
Add the mixed herbs to 2 pints olive oil and simmer on very low heat for 3 hours. Strain, and add 3 ounces of beeswax and 10 teaspoons aloe vera gel. Once completely blended, pour into wide-mouthed containers.
This salve can be used as a massage, or in small amounts applied directly to the area of pain (on the skin only, though!) for relief.