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Medication Management

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Effective Pain Management
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 5 of 6)

Differential pain assessment in cancer is important also, to help the treatment team to discern if new pain is from cancer that has moved to a new area, or if there is an acute condition that must be addressed (such as appendicitis or gall bladder stones).  It may seem unlikely that cancer patients may experience an acute episode of pain unrelated to their cancerous process, but it is possible.  It may help to keep a written record of pain to offer feedback to the physician during visits, or if a call must be placed after hours. 

Swelling, itching and rashes cause pain, and while minor when compared to pain from cancer, they can actually make it harder to tolerate pain levels if the minor pain is left unaddressed. 


Biofeedback has been around for some time, and there are competent technicians able to instruct patients in controlling their breathing and heart rate.  The technique has worked well for persons who have an ability to focus on these measurable parameters, which can help reduce pain and the anxiety that comes from being in pain.

Massage therapy can work in almost any case to reduce pain and improve the relaxation effect.  It is not necessary to “work” the area where pain is felt to provide comfort and a sense of healing. 

Patients with swelling from radiation or surgery (such as removal of lymph nodes) can look for a lymphedema therapist, who is trained in proper technique for massaging swollen areas as well as the rest of the body. 

Reflexology can be performed on the hands or feet to help release tense areas which may be related to painful spots.  The body in pain will tense itself in a variety of ways in response to pain, and by relaxing one part of the body by massage, the rest of it can follow. 

Massage can be combined with biofeedback, imagery or other alternative therapies (such as aromatherapy) to diminish stress response. 


Constipation arising from opiate medications is a frustrating consequence for caregiver and loved one.  A common misconception is that fiber and exercise will address all types of constipation.  When opiates are given, the bowels are slowed down; the result is constipation, which occurs in many people who take opioid/opiates.

The buildup of waste in the intestines creates discomfort in all people.  In general, suggestions to alleviate and control constipation include increasing water intake to soften food passing through the digestive tract, and exercise, which helps muscles “massage” the internal organs.  The intestines made “sleepy” by opiods can be helped by these two suggestions, but more help may be needed; especially when pain hinders the ability to move.

Fiber is an excellent “homespun” cure to deal with constipation, and as long as the individual has a somewhat hearty appetite, salads and vegetables can be given as snacks and meals.  When appetites are poor or finicky, fiber bought at the health food store can be sprinkled on easy-to-consume foods (like pudding or baby food).  Fiber is helped by fluid intake, and those who are having trouble keeping up with their liquids may prefer “fun fluids,” such as snow cones and popsicles. 


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