Managing Your Joint Pain

Joint pain can impact your life every step of the way. Pain in the joints can be a result of the cancer itself, or it can be due to cancer treatment medications. Learning how to manage and treat your joint pain can be an important step in improving your quality of life. 

How Can I Manage My Joint Pain? 

  • Get up and move. Although pain in your joints may make you want to avoid physical activity, studies show that exercise can positively impact joint pain. Walking is one of the biggest ways you can contribute to improved joint pain. Exercise is also proven to improve bone health and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. For more information on promoting bone health, click here.  

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers. For mild and moderate levels of pain, pain relievers that do not require a prescription may help. Examples include aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Talk with your oncologist or your Iris care team before starting these medicines as they may interact with your cancer treatment. 

  • Prescription pain meds (opioids). Opioids are prescription medicines used to treat moderate to severe pain. Examples of opioids include morphine (Kadian, MS Contin) and oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone). Other treatments are often tried first due to potential side effects of these medications. 

  • Other prescription medicines. Other types of medicine can help relieve pain, including antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and steroids. Talk with your oncologist about whether you are a candidate for this type of therapy. 

  • Integrative therapies. Some people find pain relief through acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, relaxation exercises, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and hypnosis. Our Iris Mental Health therapists are available to help discuss alternate methods of managing pain.  

Good to Know

All medicines have potential side effects. Prior to initiating any new medicine, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of each pain treatment and how to manage the side effects. Together you can decide which treatments may be best for you. 

How Can You Help Your Doctor Understand Your Joint Pain? 

If the pain interferes with your quality of life, daily activities, and/or is persistent, report it.

It might also help to keep track of your pain by writing down information on the following: 

  • How severe the pain is 

  • A description of the pain (stabbing, dull, achy)  

  • Where you feel the pain 

  • When does the pain happen (time/situation) 

  • What makes the pain worse or better 

  • What pain relief measures you use, such as medicine, massage, and hot or cold packs; how they help; and any side effects they cause 

  • Use a pain rating scale from 0 to 10 — where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable — to report your pain to your doctor 

Make sure to bring this log to your next oncology visit so that you can work with your team on finding the best solutions to managing your joint pain. 

What Should I Do If My Pain is Not Well Managed? 

If you are unable to get the answers you need or proper pain relief, consider requesting a referral to a provider skilled in the management of pain. Palliative care providers and pain management providers can work with your oncology team to find the best relief possible.

Iris Resources

To read the full article on cancer pain, click here

For further information on opioid pain relief methods, click here