There are many ways to relieve pain. It all depends on the type of pain and where it comes from. Here are various avenues to consider:
- Drugs: NSAIDs, acetaminophen, opioid analgesics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants; nerve blocks, corticosteroids, anesthetics; injections, infusions, medical devices or surgical procedures; topical creams and transdermal patches
- Psychosocial interventions: stress management, consultation, coping mechanisms
- Rehabilitation techniques: therapeutic exercises, application of cold or heat, myofascial therapy
- Complementary and alternative medicine (MCP): meditation, acupuncture, hypnosis, yoga, aromatherapy, therapeutic massage, supplements
Your doctor may prescribe painkillers. Some are over-the-counter at pharmacies or supermarkets, while others can only be obtained by prescription and require close monitoring. Sometimes, the reason for the pain (for example, pharmacotherapy to treat underlying cancer) may be addressed, which may help to relieve or eliminate the pain, thus reducing the need for pain medication.
For mild to moderate pain, your doctor may recommend taking acetaminophen or NSAIDs (eg, aspirin or ibuprofen), which may provide some relief. However, your doctor may not recommend taking it during your chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
For moderate to severe pain, your doctor may prescribe analgesics called opioid analgesics (eg, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, methadone, and fentanyl). The person who will give you this opioid will have to give you very clear explanations to be sure that you are following the prescription.
Opioid analgesics differ in their pain relief, dosage, duration of effectiveness, and administration. They can be taken orally (tablet or liquid), suppository, injection or transdermal patch. Your doctor may gradually increase the dose, depending on the intensity of the pain.
Your doctor may need to try different medications or combinations of medications before finding the formula that works best for you. It may also happen that you prescribe opioid medications with drugs that are not in order to treat certain types of pain. NSAIDs will be combined with opioids to relieve bone pain. Antidepressants, anticonvulsants or corticosteroids may also be used. In addition, it is often recommended that certain non-pharmacological treatments such as physiotherapy or psychotherapy be combined with the medication.
Risk of dependence
Some people are at risk of opioid addiction, especially if they have a substance abuse problem (past or present), a family history of addiction (alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs) or previous mental health issues. However, such a risk is low or non-existent in patients with persistent pain requiring prolonged opioid therapy if they take their medications as prescribed.
If you think you are at risk of becoming addicted, talk to your doctor. Moreover, it is not because a person is at risk that the opioid use will be excluded from the outset. In such a case, the patient usually works with an addiction specialist and is followed up more closely.
More and more people affected by cancer are turning to non-drug solutions to ease their pain and improve their overall well-being. Adding these treatments often helps to relieve pain and reduce side effects. Here are some common solutions:
- Physiotherapy and rehabilitation
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine (MCP):
- holistic medicine (meditation, hypnosis, directed mental imagery)
- natural products (herbalism, special diets, vitamins)
- the practice of body manipulation (massage, chiropractic)
- energy therapies (acupuncture, reiki, therapeutic touch)
- Exercise (walk, therapeutic pool)
- Local application of cold or hot
- Relaxation and breathing techniques
- Transcutaneous electrical neurostimulation (TENS)
It is important to discuss with your doctor which non-drug options are best for you. If you already have complementary or alternative treatment, it’s also important to talk to her about it, as some natural products may interact with your prescribed medications and change their effect.