Cancer: Pain Relief Options 

Summary: Cancer and the treatment for it can cause numerous types of pain for patients on their cancer journey. There are numerous options available to help you control your pain during your cancer journey. Many types of therapy and pain relief options are available to be taken or done alongside your main cancer treatment. Here you can learn just some of the top methods used to help relieve pain for patients.

Pain affects each person differently, causing a myriad of symptoms and ailments, both physically and mentally. Most all types of cancer include a certain amount of pain at one point or another between diagnosis and treatment. Some types of cancer are inherently painful, regardless of their stage or type, and many patients battling against advanced cancers can experience these pains caused from their tumors rubbing against other organs, nerves, or even bones. Treatments and tests can also cause a certain amount of pain, depending on the patient’s pain threshold. Some treatments can cause pain along with other side effects like vomiting, nausea, anemia, fatigue, fever, chills, mouth sores, and lymphedema. Some pain is to be expected during your cancer treatment, although there are several therapies that can help you to lessen the pain you are experiencing.

The National Cancer Institute states that twenty to fifty percent of cancer patients experience pain, and over eighty percent of patients with advanced cancers experience the side effect. Managing pain is critical and vital to the patient’s overall healing and mental outlook and should be taken very seriously. By managing the pain in your life, you can maintain your own quality of life and ability to continue your treatments on time and on schedule. Excessive amounts of untreated pain lead to depression, weakness, more body issues, despondency and isolation.

Your doctor can help you to control pain by using medications, muscle therapies, and other treatments side-by-side with your chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For pain management strategies,

  • Pain management. These physicians are essential players on the cancer patient’s care team. The pain management office is staffed by physicians and other clinicians trained in cancer care. These doctors primarily help patients find relief with prescription and non-prescription pain medications. This requires an ongoing dialogue with patients and their care teams to ensure drugs are working as intended, while balancing and managing potentially harmful medication-related side effects. Pain management physicians may also use nerve block therapies, implanted pain pumps or trigger point injections to address pain, and they often recommend other supportive care services such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical and massage therapy to achieve a well-rounded symptom-relief management plan.

There are also several supportive care services available to help you address your emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of your pain. Things like chiropractic care, oncology rehabilitation services, acupuncture, massage therapy, intimacy and orgasm, and many new holistic therapies. Some of these are below:

  • Chiropractic Care. A licensed chiropractic physician uses various techniques to address aches, stiffness in the neck or lower back, or sciatic nerve discomfort that may be the primary source of pain. Those suffering from pain caused by peripheral neuropathy, typically concentrated in the hands and feet, may also find relief through hands-on adjustment, massage, stretching, electrical muscle stimulation, heat, ice or traction techniques.
  • Acupuncture. The centuries-old Chinese practice of acupuncture, known for its restorative powers, applies needles to “acupoints,” or strategic parts of the body. The needles are typically left in place for a few minutes, usually causing virtually no additional pain when performed by a skilled acupuncturist.
  • Oncology rehabilitation. This multidisciplinary team of clinicians uses physical, occupational, manual, speech and language therapy to help cancer patients relieve a wide variety of cancer-related side effects, including pain. Oncology rehabilitation therapists use different exercises to help patients experiencing pain from surgery or treatment, as well as body, muscle, joint stiffness from reduced mobility. Practicing proper posture and stretching and strengthening exercises may restore normal body positioning and reduce stress on the spine and joints. Speech therapy may help reduce pain associated with eating, swallowing and speaking. Massage therapy offers a variety of services to reduce pain and headaches, including manual massage, acupressure, reflexology and craniosacral therapies.
  • Mind-body therapy. Mind-body therapists have several tools at their disposal to alleviate discomfort, including: Breathing and relaxation techniques, to revive weary patients and help them establish a sense of calm. Guided imagery, which leads patients through positive visualization exercises, helping them detach from the pain and transport themselves to a soothing state. Music therapy, which encourages patients to release stress and negativity by listening, discussing, creating or playing along to music.
  • Intimacy and pleasure. Numerous studies have proven that during pleasurable times, intimacy and sexual activity, the natural release of hormones has proven to lower pain rate and help patients work through painful aspects of their treatment plan. This stimulation can also be done solely by the self, as any intimate stimulation, often known as masturbation, can bring the same relief and feelings of euphoria. Some of the top studied pains that are helped by intimacy and pleasure are:
  • Headaches. The endorphins released during intimacy and sexual activity can help to relieve the pain of a headache. It makes no difference how the orgasm occurs, only that they happen as often as possible.
  • Pain. Orgasms have an analgesic effect on your body, in that they suppress pain without affecting sensitivity to touch. Orgasm is also used in childbirth to help ease the pain and pressure.
  • Abdominal cramps. Orgasms cause contractions in the uterine muscles while simultaneously releasing chemicals in the brain that act as a natural pain reliever.
  • Stress and depression. Besides the endorphins and oxytocin released in the brain during the big moment, semen, when ingested, has been shown to contain chemicals that elevate mood, increase affection, and contain antidepressants.
  • Insomnia. Besides the fact that sex really takes it out of you, your brain being flooded with oxytocin will knock you out the rest of the way. Women produce more oxytocin than men.

  • Spiritual support. Whether patients are suffering physically or emotionally, faith may offer a meaningful new perspective that may provide pain relief. Anger, guilt or anxiety, all emotions that are common to patients confronting a cancer diagnosis, may compound physical pain. With the help of spiritual support services, patients work with chaplains and spiritual advisors to learn how to release and heal painful thoughts, judgments and feelings.

If you have questions about your personal pain management plan, or other therapies that could help to alleviate your pain and discomfort, speak with your doctor during your next appointment. There are many methods and type of therapy that can be done alongside your treatment plan.

Resources Used:



Reclaiming Intimacy

National Cancer Institute

Back to blog