Management of Cancer Pain With Complementary Therapies
April 02, 2007
Pain is one of the most feared consequences of cancer. Pain is a major symptom in 75% of hospitalized cancer patients. Poorly relieved pain contributes to the suffering of the patient and family, which may motivate them to seek additional complementary and alternative therapies. Evidence-based complementary therapies are being used for symptom control and to improve quality of life. There is recent research on several complementary therapies—acupuncture, mind-body therapies, massage, reflexology, and Reiki—that provides evidence for pain management. These therapies are not well utilized due to a lack of information on benefits, risks, and resources. There is a call for education to alert patients, families, nurses, and physicians to the benefits of evidence-based complementary therapies and to the dangers of "unproven" cancer therapies. Oncology nurses are ideally positioned to assess patients' pain, to educate patients, to determine with the patient and physician the most appropriate and safe complementary therapy for pain, to refer patients to appropriate resources, and in some cases to provide the therapy itself. This article will discuss specific complementary therapies for pain control and will arm nurses with the confidence to intervene with knowledge, referrals, and ideas for hands-on implementation.