What is pain management?
Pain management is a branch of medicine focused on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care. Pain management is particularly important for cancer patients, considering one in three patients continue to experience pain after treatment. Those with advanced cancer are most likely to have severe pain. The good news, according to the National Cancer Institute, is that up to 90 percent of cancer patients get relief from relatively simple pain management therapies.
Most of the pain associated with cancer comes from the tumor itself, by pushing on nerves, bones or organs, which can lead to significant discomfort. Pain also may result from common cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. For example, chemotherapy may lead to peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes tingling, numbness and weakness in the hands and arms or legs and feet.
Pain management may improve quality of life at any stage of cancer, so managing your pain is our priority. Our experienced pain management team cares for you throughout your treatment, to help reduce your pain and help you get comfortable. We use a variety of modalities to treat and control pain, including:
- Prescription medications
- Implanted pain pumps
- Nerve block therapies
- Physical therapy
- Acupuncture and auriculotherapy
- Massage therapy
- Relaxation techniques and guided imagery
- Chiropractic treatment
Experienced care team
The team approach to care is critical for pain management. Our pain management team is fully integrated with your oncologist and other members of your care team. In addition to medication, your pain management regimen may include one or more of our integrative oncology services, such as:
- Naturopathic medicine, which uses natural therapies to help you combat pain, as well as reduce the hormonal side effects that may accompany cancer treatment
- Oncology rehabilitation, which plays a key role in pain management by using a variety of physical therapy and other techniques to improve mobility and trigger the release of endorphins, which is the body's natural defense against pain
- The mind-body medicine team, which is available to teach you relaxation tools to help you manage pain, and to reduce the anxiety and fatigue related to cancer or its treatment
For patients staying at the hospital, the pain management team conducts “comfort rounds” twice weekly. During these visits, pain management practitioners thoroughly evaluate your pain level and assess how your pain management approach is working. Based on their evaluation, these clinicians will make modifications to your treatment plan as needed.
Personalized treatment approach
The pain symptoms you experience are unique to you, which is why we tailor your pain management plan to your individual case. Pain itself may be dull, achy or sharp. It may occur frequently or once in a while, and it may be mild, moderate or severe. The pain you experience may depend on your cancer type and stage, how much the cancer has spread, and how sensitive you are to pain (your pain tolerance). Whatever type of pain you experience, we want to treat it early to prevent it from worsening.
Managing side effects
Some prescription medicines used to treat pain have side effects, including nausea, vomiting, itching, constipation and drowsiness. Your doctor may change the dosage, the time the medicine is taken or the medicine itself to see if you experience fewer side effects. In addition, our integrative oncology service practitioners will work together to help you manage side effects that you experience with pain management. We offer nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, mind-body medicine and other services.