Recover Overcoming Treatment Joint Pain
If you experienced joint, or any bone-related, pain during or after your breast cancer treatment, you know that it is not very pleasant to deal with, especially if you’re accustomed to being an active person. Aches, pains and stiffness in your bones and joints that result from breast cancer and/or treatment, can range from mild discomfort to severe aches that may require medication. Either can be an inconvenience and disrupt your daily routine.
Generally, there are two main types of joint or bone pain related to breast cancer – non-metastatic and metastatic.
Non-metastatic bone pain
Some women have long-term, persistent discomfort in the long part of their bones, the muscles surrounding the bone and the joints. Even women with breast implants may suffer from discomfort because of pressure on the sensitive area around the bones of the rib cage.
Chemotherapy treatment can cause pain in your hips, legs and arms, and typically happens during the time you're receiving chemotherapy -- and it may worsen with each session. The pain might persist for a long time, months -- or even a year -- after treatment ends. The good news is that eventually the pain should disappear.
The usual culprits in your treatment regimen that can cause joint and bone pain are:
Joint pain is also a common side effect of hormone therapy for breast cancer treatment because it halts estrogen production in post-menopausal women. These treatments are meant to slow the production of estrogen, which means that there is less of it to fuel breast cancer cell growth. Tamoxifen treatment may produce arthritis-like aches and stiffness. NSAIDs help with this pain. If you don't get adequate relief, your doctor might prescribe opioids.
Some women might suffer from severe side effects of hormone therapy to the point where the pain becomes debilitating. This can create a ripple effect, causing other problems to develop, such as depression, a compromised quality of life, weight gain, etc., all linked to inactivity.
Other medications used help breast cancer survivors, such as Fosamax and Boniva in treating osteoporosis, may cause bone or joint pain.
Metastatic bone pain
Unfortunately, there are some women who suffer from joint and bone pain because their breast cancer has metastasized, or spread into their bones. If there are one or just a few areas of significant bone pain, the best way to gain relief is to eliminate the cancer from those areas.
Joint or bone pain from breast cancer that has metastasized (many areas of cancer throughout the bone) is best treated with an opioid and an anti-inflammatory agent. Managing bone pain in metastatic breast cancer is a bit more complex. In this case, chemotherapy or tamoxifen can be very effective at eliminating cancer cells in all areas where the bone is involved and getting rid of the pain.
If you suffer from severe joint pain, whether it’s from non-metastatic or metastatic breast cancer, consult your doctor immediately. If your bone pain is due to a specific breast cancer treatment, you may be able to switch to a different hormone therapy to ease your pain.
So, how can you manage joint and bone pain?
Typical over-the-counter and some prescriptions versions of medicines, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, have been effective in treating and managing non-metastatic bone and joint pain.
There are also complementary and holistic medicinetechniques that have been shown to ease non-metastatic bone and joint pain and improve overall physical well-being, including:
Other tips for managing bone/joint pain:
Here are some resources to help you better understand how to overcome joint pain from breast cancer treatment:
- Hot or cold packs, or a combination of the two, can soothe sore areas. Heat helps reduce muscle spasms, and cold helps reduce inflammation.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones as strong as they can be.
- Maintain a healthy weight to ease stress and strain on your joints.
- Exercise regularly tokeep your bones strong and helps your joints stay flexible.
National Cancer Institute Cancer Bulletin -- Acupuncture Reduces Joint Pain in Some Women with Breast Cancer
Sun Sentinel article - Acupuncture May Help Joint Pain
ScienceDaily’s article - Acupuncture May Relieve Joint Pain Caused by Some Breast Cancer Treatments
For more information on addressing joint pain, go to Breast Cancer Partner’s Resources. You can also share your knowledge and success with other survivors in our Partner Forum or at Survivor Tips.