Cancer patients can experience pain after surgery to treat their cancer or from the cancer itself. When patients are in pain, they often want to remain sedentary, which is understandable but may hinder their recovery. Effective pain management can help transition a patient from a hospital bed to a more active lifestyle.
It is important for patients with post-operative pain or cancer pain to work with a pain management specialist. Together, patients and their pain management specialists will develop a comprehensive pain management plan that will likely consist of pain medication and/or peripheral/neuraxial nerve blocks. A nerve block is an injection of a local anesthetic that interrupts the pain signals sent to the brain, numbs the nerves and may relieve pain. Both medication and nerve block treatments help patients tolerate physical and occupational therapies so they can achieve better results.
After any cancer treatment—surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy—patients do need to incorporate rest as part of their recovery plan. However, an important part of an inpatient’s hospital stay is the early transition from a bed rest status to a functional status. A recent article in the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reinforces this idea. It has been shown that patients who are immobilized for several days without doing any type of activity face potential negative consequences in the speed and quality of their recovery.
Patients on bed rest for an extended period of time can have significant impairment to their physical functioning, resulting in disuse atrophy and affecting quality of life. Disuse atrophy occurs when skeletal muscle in the arms, legs and back begin to shrink, which can lead to weakness, loss of muscle tone and the patient’s inability to perform daily living activities.
Physical and occupational therapy can go a long way in preventing and reversing the complications of disuse atrophy and weakness. In most cases, patients should start activity as early as possible. Pain management and daily rehabilitation therapy can help minimize weakness and reverse muscle atrophy, which can help maximize recovery and quality of life.
Learn more about pain management.