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Cancer: Home Treatment for Pain

Topic Overview

Not all forms of cancer or cancer treatment cause pain. If pain occurs, many treatments are available to relieve it. Talk with your doctor before you take any non-prescription medicines, especially if you have a fever or have had kidney or liver disease, gastrointestinal bleeding, or a stomach ulcer. If your doctor has given you instructions or medicines to treat pain, be sure to follow them. Home treatment may help to reduce pain and improve your physical and mental well-being.

For more information, see the topic Cancer Pain.

Medicine you can buy without a prescription

Try an over-the-counter medicine to help treat your pain:

Safety tips

Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use an over-the-counter medicine:

  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not use more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, call your doctor before you take any medicine.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18 unless your doctor tells you to.

Other home treatments for pain include:

  • Heat and cold packs, to relieve painful areas of the body. Do not use heat or cold on skin that is tender from radiation treatment.
  • Distraction, which can help you focus your attention on something other than pain. Distraction also can be useful whenever you are waiting for pain medicines to start working.
  • Stretching and range-of-motion exercises, to maintain strength, flexibility, and mobility.
  • Simple touch or gentle massage may help. But avoid getting a massage where you have any visible tumours, open wounds, skin that is tender from radiation, or areas with deep vein thrombosis. If you are caring for someone else who has pain, you may be able to help them relax by:
    • Holding the person's hand. Or gently rubbing their shoulders.
    • Rubbing the person's feet with warmed lotion.
    • Giving him or her a 3-minute back rub using smooth, long, gentle strokes along both sides of the spine.

You may wish to try one of the alternative therapies listed below. Be sure to talk with your doctor about which therapies might be best for you. Some of these treatments require a specialist (like acupuncture). But you can learn to do others by yourself (such as relaxation techniques). For more information, see the topic Complementary Medicine.


Current as of: September 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Michael Seth Rabin MD - Medical Oncology
Jimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology