Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be more than 228,000 new cases of lung cancer in the United States in 2020.
Pain is the most common symptom of lung cancer. One 2016 review suggests that more than 50 percent of people living with cancer experience pain during treatment.
Reasons why you might experience pain when you have advanced lung cancer include:
- Pain from the tumor. You may experience pain at the location of the tumor, particularly in your chest.
- Cancer is spreading. As advanced lung cancer spreads to other body parts and destroys tissue, it can cause pain. This can happen in your bones, abdomen, and other areas. If the cancer has spread to your brain, you may also have headaches.
- Pain from cancer treatment. Pain can also be caused by common cancer treatments. Chemotherapy, for example, can cause headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain, and pain from nerve damage.
While pain medication is often used to help keep people with advanced lung cancer more comfortable, complementary therapies may provide additional relief.
If you have pain from advanced lung cancer, talk with your doctor. There are many treatments that may provide relief, and they can recommend which may be best for you.
Keep reading to learn more about alternative techniques to help manage pain from advanced lung cancer.
Meditation is a mind-body technique that involves focusing your attention on something specific, such as a word or your breath, in a quiet space with minimal distractions.
While its best-known benefits are calmness and relaxation, meditation may also help people cope with an illness and find pain relief.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has a 32-minute guided meditation focused on managing cancer pain that you can try from home. You may also be able to take a meditation class at a local studio or cancer care center.
Often described as a moving meditation, yoga is an ancient practice from India that typically involves syncing your breath with physical poses to promote physical and psychological well-being.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that yoga may help promote better sleep among people with cancer, which could help with pain management. A small 2014 study on seven adults undergoing treatment for non-small cell lung cancer also suggests that yoga may help improve sleep, mood, and quality of life.
However, more research is needed to determine yoga’s benefits on advanced lung cancer pain.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique in which a practitioner inserts thin needles into specific areas of your body.
It’s based on the theory that misaligned energies in the body cause disease. The goal of the treatment is to restore the movement of energy in the body.
Additional research, such as a
If you don’t like needles, you may want to consider reflexology. It’s like acupuncture without the needles.
During a reflexology session, a practitioner will apply pressure with their hands to key points on your hands, ears, or feet. The idea is that these points align with other parts of your body, such as your lungs, and touching them can restore the flow of energy to promote well-being.
As reported in a 2018 review, research suggests that reflexology may help people with cancer experience a decrease in pain and anxiety. However, due to limitations in previous research, more studies are needed to show the clinical benefits of reflexology for people with cancer.
Simply drawing your attention away from the pain to a highly interesting activity can help keep you more comfortable.
This is a technique known as distraction. It’s been found to be especially helpful for people with pain, anxiety, and nausea, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
There are a variety of ways to distract yourself from the pain, including:
- listening to music
- watching TV or movies
- calling a loved one
- doing puzzles
- working on crafts
- building models
Try different hobbies or other pleasurable activities to take your mind off the pain.
When you’re hypnotized, you’re put in a deeply relaxed state and given therapeutic suggestions that may offer relief from certain symptoms like pain.
And there’s documentation of its use in people with cancer for nearly 200 years, according to a
Many other complementary care techniques may provide relief from pain and other advanced lung cancer symptoms.
Some of these practices may work better for certain people than others, so it’s important to try different techniques to figure out which ones help you.
Here are some techniques to consider:
- massage therapy
- tai chi
- art therapy
- breath work
Many people with advanced lung cancer experience pain — acute, chronic, or both — either from their disease or as a result of their treatment.
Your doctor may recommend treating the pain with certain medications. You may also find additional relief through complementary therapies, such as:
It’s important to note that complementary therapies are not a treatment for cancer itself, but rather a way to potentially improve your quality of life.
Talk with your doctor about which complementary therapies might be right for you.