Things you can do to help with pain

There are many things you can do to make your pain easier to cope with. Even small changes to your routine can make a difference.

Try to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible. Sit or lie in a position that doesn’t cause pain. Changing position regularly, using special pillows and having equipment to help with moving can also help.

You might want to try using heat or cold to relieve pain. Heat pads and warm baths can ease aches and stiffness, whilst an ice pack may relieve inflammation and swelling.

Other things can help distract you from pain, such as watching TV, reading or listening to music. Having family or friends for short, regular visits can be something to look forward to. Some people also find that art or music therapy reduces feelings of anxiety and helps them to relax.

Talking to family members or friends can often help to relieve worry or anxiety. Often they can also help you find the information and support you need.

Smoking may affect how you feel pain and how painkillers work. Quitting has lots of benefits and is one of the healthiest decisions you can make.

Other things that can help with pain

Many people assume that drugs or other treatments are the only way to control cancer pain. But they are only one part of treatment. Sometimes simple ways of making you feel better are overlooked. There are a lot of things that you and other people can do to make you feel better.

Stay as comfortable as possible

The way you sit or lie down can affect your pain. Try to be in a comfortable position. Remember, what may feel comfortable at first may be painful 15 or 20 minutes later. You can ask a family member or friend to help you change position as often as you need. This will also reduce the risk of your skin becoming sore because of being in one position for a long time.

Your bedding may need to be regularly tidied or changed. You may feel a lot better when you get back into a cool bed with fresh sheets.

Other things that can help are:

  • V-shaped pillows or supports that help reduce backache and neck pain
  • a bed cradle to keep the weight of blankets off weak or painful limbs
  • a special mattress and cushions
  • equipment to help with moving around and sitting.

Your district nurse can help you get these things, or tell you where to get them.

Use heat or cold

Heat pads and warm baths can help relieve aches and pains. They may help relax muscles and reduce joint stiffness. Ice packs can help relieve pain where there is inflammation and swelling. Some people find that alternating heat with cold helps them.

Always take care to protect your skin from burns when using heat pads and ice packs. Heat pads should be used with a fleece cover. Ice packs should be wrapped in a towel before you put them near the skin. Heat should not be used on areas of the body that are already inflamed or swollen, as it can make the swelling worse.


Watching TV, reading, playing computer games, listening to music or chatting to a friend are ways of using your mind to think of something else. Sitting in a chair or lying in bed with nothing to do can become depressing. Short periods of entertainment can help you feel better and cope better with your pain. Short, regular visits from friends and family may help too.

It may also help to be as physically active as you can, with help if needed. And it’s good to have something nice to look forward to.

Music or art therapy

This is using music or art to help with anxiety and relax you. It may help you to express your feelings in a creative way. You don’t have to be musical or artistic. Music or art therapists often run classes at hospitals or hospices. Going out and meeting other people while enjoying an activity may also distract you from any pain, and help you feel as good as possible.

Quit smoking

If you are a smoker, it can help to stop or cut down. Although smoking may give a short-term relief from pain, it may be making things worse. Research has shown that smoking may have an effect on the nervous system and increase pain sensation. Smoking may also affect how painkillers work, making them less effective.

If you smoke, giving up is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. Stopping smoking can be stressful, especially if you are coping with other problems, such as pain. But it has many health benefits and reduces your risk of other diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.