On this page: Allied health care | Complementary therapies
For many people, some types of pain can be relieved through allied health services or complementary therapists.
Allied health care
Various allied health professionals support the work of doctors and nurses. Practitioners are usually part of your hospital MDT,
or your GP can refer you to private practitioners as part of a chronic disease management plan. See a list of allied health care professionals and a description of their role.
Complementary therapies may help you cope better with pain and other side effects caused by cancer and its treatment. These therapies may increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood and quality of life. For a list of therapies used to reduce pain, see below.
Let your doctor know about any complementary therapies you are using or thinking about trying. This is because some therapies may cause reactions or unwanted side effects depending on your conventional treatment and the pain medicines you are taking. You should also tell the complementary therapist about your diagnosis, as some therapies, such as massage and exercise, may need to be modified to accommodate the changes in your body.
For more information, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for a free copy of Understanding Complementary Therapies.
|Complementary therapies used to reduce pain
||Helps release muscle tension. It can help you
sleep, give you more energy, reduce your anxiety,
and make other pain relief methods – such as
medicine or a cold pack – work more effectively.
|Focuses on breathing techniques and quietening
the mind. There are different types. Mindful
meditation encourages people to be more
aware of their body, thoughts and surroundings.
Visualisation uses your imagination to create
pleasant thoughts to take the mind off the pain
and give a more hopeful outlook.
|A relaxing therapy that may increase your sense
of wellbeing. It helps relieve muscle spasms
and contractions, and joint stiffness. Avoid
massaging the area with cancer.
|The use of aromatic essential oils extracted
from plants for healing relaxation. Mainly used
during massage, but can also be used in baths,
inhalations or vaporisers (oil burners).
|Can be used to distract your mind from pain or
worries, or make you feel more in control of what
is happening to your body. It involves using your
imagination to think of shapes, colours, sounds –
anything that helps you feel like you are in a
|This deep relaxation technique is used to help
people become more aware of their inner
thoughts. It has been clinically tested with good
results for helping people cope with pain.
|art therapy, music therapy and journal writing
|These techniques give you the opportunity to
express your feelings in different creative ways.
The techniques also provide some distraction
from the pain. You can be creative at home,
or some hospitals and support groups offer
professionally run programs.
|A battery-powered machine that delivers a mild
electric current to the skin. This produces
a pleasant sensation and relieves some pain.
Many physiotherapists offer this treatment.
|conginitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
|A type of talk therapy psychologists use to help
people identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours,
and change how they respond to negative
situations or emotions. It can help control anxiety
and reactions to stress.
|heat and cold
|Heat may relieve sore muscles, while cold may
numb the pain.
|A simple technique of focusing on something
other than the pain.
Other ways to control
Reviewed by: Dr Melanie Lovell, Clinical Ass Prof, Medicine, Northern Clinical School, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, and Palliative Medicine Consultant Physician, Greenwich Hospital, NSW; Nathaniel Alexander, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW, NSW; Anne Booms, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Roger Goucke, Consultant, Department of Pain Management, Specialist Pain Medicine Physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Clinical Ass Prof, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Western Australia, WA; John Marane, Consumer; and Dr Jane Trinca, Director, Barbara Walker Centre for Pain Management, St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC.