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Other Methods of Pain Relief

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Other Methods of Pain Relief

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Are There Any Operations To Relieve Pain?

Yes. Pain cannot be felt if the nerve pathways that relay pain impulses to the brain are interrupted. To block these pathways, a neurosurgeon may cut a nerve close to the spinal cord ( ]]>rhizotomy]]> ) or cut bundles of nerves in the spinal cord itself ( ]]>cordotomy]]> ).

When the nerves that transmit pain are destroyed, the sensations of pressure and temperature can no longer be felt. Therefore, after these operations, patients ate more likely to injure the affected area because they no longer have the protective reflexes of pain, pressure, or temperature.

What Are Nerve Blocks?

When certain substances are injected into or around a nerve, that nerve is no longer able to transmit pain. A local anesthetic, which may be combined with cortisone, provides temporary pain relief. For longer lasting pain relief, phenol or alcohol can be injected. A nerve block may cause muscle paralysis. Loss of all feeling in the affected area is a frequent side effect of a nerve block.

What Is Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS)?

This is a technique in which mild electric currents are applied to selected areas of the skin by a small power pack connected to two electrodes. The sensation is described as a buzzing, tingling, or tapping feeling. The small electric impulses seem to interfere with pain sensations. The current can be adjusted so that the sensation is pleasant and relieves the pain. Pain relief lasts beyond the time that the current is applied. Your doctor or a physical therapist can tell you where to get a TENS unit.

Can Alcohol Help Relieve My Pain?

Drinking alcohol sometimes can provide pain relief, increase appetite, reduce anxiety, and help you sleep. Drinking small amounts of alcoholic beverages with meals or in the evening may be beneficial for you. Ask your doctor's advice before you start using alcohol, because it is dangerous to combine alcohol with certain pain-relieving drugs.

Will Marijuana Relieve My Pain?

No. The pain-relieving effects of marijuana are not consistent. Marijuana has been reported to reduce anxiety or control nausea so that the person in pain feels better. However, some cancer patients have reported that smoking marijuana increased their pain. At this time, marijuana is not legally available.

What About Acupuncture for Pain Relief?

In ]]>acupuncture]]> , special needles are inserted into the body at certain points and at various depths and angles. Particular groups of acupuncture points are believed to control specific areas of pain sensation. The procedure has been used as an anesthetic in China and elsewhere to treat many types of pain, but its usefulness for cancer patients has not been proven. Most doctors believe that it is not harmful as long as the needles are sterile. Acupuncture should not be used for patients who are getting chemotherapy because of the danger of increased bleeding where the needles are placed.

Can Hypnosis Help?

No one knows how ]]>hypnosis]]> works to control pain. Hypnosis is a trance-like state that can be brought on by a person trained in special techniques. During hypnosis, a person is very receptive to suggestions made by the hypnotist. To relieve pain, the hypnotist may suggest that pain will be gone when the person "wakes up." Some cancer patients have learned methods of self-hypnosis that they use to control pain. However, it's hard to predict when hypnosis will work for pain relief.


Adapted from National Cancer Institute, 2/00

Last reviewed February 2000 by ]]>EBSCO Publishing Editorial Staff]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.