Coping With Nerve and Muscle Effects Related to Chemotherapy
- Weakness or numbness in the hands and/or feet
- Feeling colder than normal
- Pain when walking
- Weak, sore, tired, or achy muscles
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty picking up objects and buttoning clothing
- Shaking or trembling
- Walking problems
- Hearing loss
- Stomach pain
What to Do
- If your fingers are numb, be very careful when grasping objects that are sharp, hot, or otherwise dangerous.
- If your sense of balance or muscle strength is affected, avoid falls by moving carefully, using handrails when going up or down stairs, and using bath mats in the bathtub or shower. Use a cane or other walking aid if needed.
- If possible, always wear shoes with rubber soles, such as sneakers.
- When bathing, check the temperature of your bath water with a thermometer. This will help you avoid getting burned by water that is too hot.
- Be careful when cooking. Take steps to avoid cutting or burning yourself.
- Wear gloves when cooking, washing dishes, or gardening.
- Rest when you feel tired.
- Ask your doctor for pain medication. There are multiple different medications available that can effectively treat the pain related to neuropathy. In certain situations your doctor may refer you to a cancer pain specialist for further treatment.
- Consider acupuncture . Many people with acute neuropathy find acupuncture helpful. It usually takes 2-5 treatments before beneficial effects can be appreciated. Acupuncture treatment is in some cases covered by medical insurance. Check with your doctor to see if you are at risk for infection from accupuncture because of low white blood cell counts.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Updated June 2011. Accessed February 5, 2014.
Kaptchuk TJ. Acupuncture: theory, efficacy, and practice. Ann Intern Med. 2002; 136:374.
Peripheral neuropathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 2, 2013. Accessed February 5, 2014.
Shlay JC, Chaloner K, Max MB, et al. Acupuncture and amitriptyline for pain due to HIV-related peripheral neuropathy: a randomized controlled trial. Terry Beirn Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS. JAMA. 1998; 280:1590
Understanding chemotherapy: a guide for patients. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/treatmenttypes/chemotherapy/understandingchemotherapyaguideforpatientsandfamilies/understanding-chemotherapy-more-side-effects-nerve-and-muscle-problems. Updated March 17, 2013. Accessed February 5, 2014.
Visovsky C, Collins M, Abbott L, Aschenbrenner J, Hart C. Putting evidence into practice: evidence-based interventions for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2007 Dec; 11(6):901-13.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2014 -
- Update Date: 02/05/2014 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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