Managing pain can feel like a full-time job for people with cancer. For some, the pain becomes chronic and long-term pain medication becomes a part of life. With the addition of natural remedies, people with cancer can help manage their pain more naturally.
Cancer-related pain can be caused by the cancer itself or by cancer treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy. Some pain is easier to control than others such as muscle pain after surgery. Other types of pain, such as neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapy, aren’t so easy to control.
The combination of pain medicine and natural pain relievers seems to offer the most benefit to people diagnosed with all types of cancer, including mesothelioma cancer. Using herbal remedies, yoga and acupressure in addition to pain medicine may help patients better manage their pain. Some people may even be able to reduce their pain medicine dose with addition of complementary pain therapies.
Herbal Remedies for Pain
A variety of herbs can offer pain relief. Research on herbs for pain is relatively minimal compared to research on prescription pain relievers, but there is evidence that certain herbs can minimize pain.
The following herbs have shown pain-relieving effects in scientific research:
- White willow bark
- Medical marijuana (only available in certain states)
Much of the pain relief caused by herbal medicines is induced by anti-inflammatory effects.
Cancer patients must talk with their oncologist before taking any herbal supplement or tea. Many herbs can interfere with traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Yoga May Help
Research says yoga helps relieve low-back pain and arthritis, and among cancer patients it is proven to reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue. Anxiety is known to increase pain. Cancer patients coping with anxiety may feel relief from both anxiousness and pain through yoga.
The stretching involved in yoga helps to relax muscle tension, which can contribute to pain. Calm, focused breathing can promote a feeling of well-being, which may have an impact on pain in some patients.
Yoga is easily practiced at home. Gentle forms of yoga are recommended for people with cancer, and patients should check with their oncologist to make sure they’re cleared for gentle physical activity. Instructional yoga videos tailored to cancer patients are available online to watch at home.
Acupressure for Pain Relief
A number of studies show acupuncture and acupressure offer pain relief to people with cancer.
Acupuncture requires a licensed practitioner and the use of small needles, so it isn’t simple to do at home. However, acupressure is applied with finger pressure and can be performed practically anywhere.
One particular acupressure point is commonly used to minimize pain, and it’s called pressure point LI4. The point is located on the hand, at the slight indentation between your thumb and index finger.
To apply pressure to this point, allow one hand to relax while you use the index finger and thumb of the opposite hand to apply pressure to both sides of the point. For about five minutes, apply as much pressure as necessary to achieve a sensation that isn’t painful or too gentle. Repeat as necessary throughout the day to minimize pain.
NCCIH. (2015, March 24). Herbs at a glance. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/herbsataglance.htm
NCCIH. (2015, August). Chronic pain. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm
UCLA. (2015). Acupressure point LI4: Large intenstine 6 or He Gu. Retrieved from http://exploreim.ucla.edu/glossary/acupressure-point-li4/