Drugs that you can buy without a doctor's prescription may be enough to relieve your pain at times. Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol or Panadol, relieves pain, while other drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin relieve pain and also decrease swelling.
Drugs that need a doctor's prescription may be stronger or work differently than nonprescription drugs. Follow your doctor's orders about taking them. Prescription drugs include:
Anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
Bisphosphonates, to slow bone changes related to cancer.
Drugs for depression, to treat burning pain. Plus, they can help you sleep.
Certain drugs for seizures, to help control nerve pain, like burning and tingling.
Other treatment options
Other types of treatments that may work for you are:
Physical treatments, such as healing touch, massage, heat or cold, and braces or splints.
Stretching, yoga, and exercises to help keep up your strength, flexibility, and mobility.
Behavioral treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation, biofeedback, meditation, or guided imagery.
Education and emotional support. Your doctor can refer you to the social services department of your local cancer treatment center or hospital.
Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, prayer, and humor therapy.
What to think about
One of the most important things you can do is to keep track of your pain and how your treatment is working. A pain control diary (What is a PDF document?) can help you do this. It can also help you tell your doctor exactly what your pain is and how it should be treated as it changes.
Many people worry about becoming addicted to narcotic painkillers. If narcotic painkillers are used for longer than a week or so, they can cause your body to keep expecting the medicine. This is called a drug dependency. Dependency is not the same as addiction. Addiction is a behavioral disorder in which a person has a craving for the drug. This craving may not even be related to the level of pain. But narcotic drugs rarely cause addiction when they are used under a doctor's care. Talk to your doctor if you are worried.
Your pain may be harder to treat if you are depressed or anxious. Talk to your doctor about how to relieve stress and anxiety.
The goal of managing your cancer pain is to be as free from pain as possible and to continue your normal activities, such as work, hobbies, and recreation. But a time may come when treatment of your condition is no longer effective. Your doctor will be able to help you answer questions or address concerns about maintaining your comfort. Hospice workers can care for you in your own home. For more information, see the topic Hospice Care.
You may find it helpful and comforting to state your health care choices in writing, with an advance directive or living will, while you are still able to make and talk about these decisions. Think about your pain control options and which kind of treatment will be best for you. You may wish to choose a health care agent, someone to make and carry out decisions about your care if you become unable to speak for yourself.