Guide to Controlling Cancer Pain

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Distraction means turning your attention to something other than the pain. People often use this method without realizing it when they watch television or listen to music to take their minds off a worry.

Distraction may be used alone to manage mild pain or used with medicine to manage brief bouts of severe pain, such as pain related to procedures. Distraction is useful when you’re waiting for pain medicine to start working.

How to use distraction

Any activity that you must focus on can be used for distraction. Distractions can be internal, such as counting, singing to yourself, praying, or repeating statements in your head such as “I can cope.” Or distractions can be external, such as needlework, model building, or painting. Losing yourself in a good book might divert your mind from pain. Watching TV and listening to music are also good distractions. Slow, rhythmic breathing can be used along with distraction to help you relax. Visiting with friends or family is another useful distraction technique.

You may find it helpful to listen to rather fast music through a headset or earphones. To help keep your attention on the music, tap out the rhythm. This technique doesn’t require much energy, so it may be useful when you’re tired.

After using some distraction techniques, people have reported feeling tired, irritable, and in more pain. If this happens to you, try different techniques, and use them only when you have mild pain.

Last Medical Review: 07/15/2015
Last Revised: 07/15/2015