Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer. It forms in plasma cells, which are made in the bone marrow.
Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells in the bone marrow to multiply rapidly. These cancer cells eventually crowd out and destroy healthy plasma cells and blood cells.
Plasma cells are responsible for producing antibodies, which help protect against disease. Multiple myeloma cells can cause the production of abnormal antibodies. These can slow blood flow.
Multiple myeloma most often occurs in bone marrow with the most activity, which can include the marrow in bones such as the:
- pelvic bones
Multiple myeloma is also characterized by the existence of multiple tumors.
Multiple myeloma can cause osteolytic lesions, or soft spots in the bone, that appear as holes on an X-ray. These osteolytic lesions are painful. They can increase the risk of painful breaks or fractures.
Multiple myeloma can also cause nerve damage or pain when a tumor presses up against a nerve. Tumors can also compress the spinal cord, which can result in back pain and muscle weakness.
According to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, approximately 85 percent of people diagnosed with multiple myeloma experience some degree of bone damage or loss.
Multiple myeloma can be painful. While the first priority is treating the myeloma itself, several treatment options are available that focus purely on relieving your pain. Medical and natural treatment options are available to treat bone pain and lesions.
Always talk with your doctor before starting a new treatment. Some treatments may help bone pain but won’t stop the cancer from growing.
Medical treatment options include:
- Analgesics. “Analgesics” is an umbrella term for different pain relievers. Opioids, such as morphine and codeine, are the analgesics most likely used to treat bone pain.
- Bisphosphonates. These prescription medications can prevent the bone cells from breaking down and damaging the bone. You can take them by mouth or receive them through a vein (intravenously).
- Anticonvulsants and antidepressants. These medications are sometimes used to treat pain stemming from nerve damage. They can sometimes interrupt or slow down the pain signals that the nerve cells send to the brain.
- Surgery. Surgery is most often used to treat fractures. During surgery, a doctor may insert rods or plates into the fracture to support fragile and weakened bones.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is often used to attempt to shrink tumors. This can help relieve pinched nerves or compressed spinal cords.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications may interact with your other pain medications or cancer treatments. Consult your doctor before taking any OTC medications.
Natural treatments are most frequently used with medical interventions such as medications and surgery. Natural treatments can provide strong pain relief, with options including:
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy can include general strength building, or it can be used to expand the range of motion or strength of an area of the body after bone damage or surgery.
- Exercise therapy. Exercise therapy can promote healthy bones and reduce future pain.
- Massage therapy. Massage therapy can relieve muscle, joint, and bone pain.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a safe treatment for promoting nerve health. It also helps with bone pain relief.
Some natural supplements can help both your pain levels and your overall health.
Like OTC medications, they can interact with other medications you’re already taking. Never take any new supplements without first talking with your doctor.
Natural supplements can include fish oil and magnesium.
Fish oil, whether in capsule or liquid form, contains an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can help improve peripheral nerve health as well as reduce painful nerve damage and inflammation.
Magnesium can help:
- improve nerve health
- strengthen bones
- prevent future bone pain
- regulate calcium levels to prevent hypercalcemia, or too much calcium in the blood
Some people take calcium supplements in an attempt to strengthen their bones, but this can be dangerous. Because calcium from the broken-down bones is already flooding the bloodstream, adding calcium supplements could result in hypercalcemia.
Do not take calcium supplements without your doctor advising you to do so.
Both the multiple myeloma itself and the resulting bone damage can lead to several serious long-term effects. The most obvious are chronic bone weakness and bone pain.
Bone lesions and soft spots that occur because of multiple myeloma are difficult to treat. They may cause continued fractures, even if the cancer itself has gone into remission.
If tumors press up against your nerves or cause spinal cord compression, you may experience long-term nervous system damage. Some multiple myeloma treatments can also cause nerve damage. Many people develop tingling or pain in areas of nerve damage.
Treatments are available to offer some relief, such as pregabalin (Lyrica) or duloxetine (Cymbalta, Drizalma Sprinkle).
To help relieve pain, you can also wear loose socks, wear padded slippers, or walk regularly.