Heat and cold treatment for cancer pain

For mild to moderate pain from cancer, try using heat and cold applied to the affected areas as appropriate.

Heat may relieve sore muscles. Apply heat 2 or 3 times a day for 20 to 30 minutes, using a heating pad, hot shower, or hot pack. Don't use heat treatment in an area where you have broken skin or a new injury, because heat can increase bleeding. To avoid burning your skin, do not apply anything that is uncomfortably warm. If you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy, do not use heat treatment without talking with your doctor.

Cold may numb pain sensations. Don't keep a cold pack on for so long that you are shivering or that the cold causes more pain.

When using heat or cold treatment:

  • Don't apply heat or cold packs directly to bare skin. Put a thin towel or pillowcase between the pack and your skin.
  • Don't use heat or cold in an area where you have poor circulation.
  • Try alternating heat and cold.

After a heat or cold treatment, try some gentle massage for relaxation and pain relief.

Last Updated: October 30, 2009

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