Multiple Myeloma: Managing Bone Pain

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

If you live with multiple myeloma, you likely have felt it in your bones, especially in your back, hips, or skull. About 70 percent of people with this cancer endure severe bone pain that may worsen with movement or at night. The American Cancer Society calls these aches one of the most common symptoms of multiple myeloma. Let's learn more.

Working with doctor to pinpoint pain.

Bone pain might be first symptom

People living with multiple myeloma say bone pain is the most common reason they first sought medical attention, according a study published in 2017. Work with your doctor to create a pain management program so your pain can be effectively treated. This may involve x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans to determine the exact cause and location of your pain, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Couple talking to doctor about x-rays.

Bone damage causes pain

Bone pain is caused by cancer cells damaging the bone, including thinning of the bone or bone lesions. In some people with multiple myeloma, more than 30 percent of the bone is destroyed, according to Cooper University Health System.

Man with neck pain.

Cancer creates an acidic environment

One cause of multiple myeloma-related bone pain is that cancer causes an acidic environment in the bones, according a study published in 2017. Using acid inhibitors, such as bisphosphonates, can reduce the pain. But this treatment usually does not help those in advanced stages of MM.

Chronic pain assessment.

Pain relievers can help

Prescription pain relievers, such as opioids, might be prescribed to help better manage nighttime pain, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Depending on your level of pain, these can be used via a patch that supplies a steady stream of medication, sustained-released pills, or a portable pump that continuously injects medication into the blood stream.

Fentanyl patches for pain.

Using fentanyl for pain relief

Fentanyl is another type of pain medication that can be used for sudden, temporary flares of pain. This is given as a lozenge on a stick, resembling a lollipop, or a tablet that dissolves in the mouth. The medication is absorbed through the mucus membranes in the mouth.

Cast on arm after surgery.

Supporting weak and damaged bones

Pain that is caused when bone is weakened can sometimes be treated with surgery. Plates and rods are inserted to support fragile bones, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Spinal surgery.

Treating bone lesions

Procedures such as vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, which are typically used to treat weakened bones caused by osteoporosis, can also be used to treat multiple myeloma, according to Cooper University Health System. These treatments use a cement-like mixture to fill spaces in the bones in the vertebrae of the spine caused by lesions, according to the Radiological Society of North America.

Generic ibuprofen pain relievers.

Relieving pain with OTC medications

Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen may help to relieve mild pain. However, you should speak with your doctor before taking these medications as they can sometimes interfere with cancer treatments, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Woman having reiki treatment.

Exploring complementary treatments

Complementary treatments, such as relaxation strategies, meditation, visualization, or acupuncture, used in addition to traditional medicine, may help reduce pain in some people. Some cancer centers have medical personnel who can talk to you about complementary treatments that may help and will not interfere with cancer treatments.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.