When your body reaches breaking point and everything aches, we often look to medication to help soothe away our pains. But when you have an added complication in your life such as cancer or other long-term illnesses, finding a way to relieve your pain without taking another tablet becomes almost a mission impossible.
For many people, already having to take medicine to manage chronic conditions, the thought of subjecting their bodies to any more chemical intervention is a thought they simply can’t stomach.
Instead more and more people are looking at alternative therapies to complement existing treatment and get a more holistic approach to their well-being. It should be noted of course that any form of therapy should be given the ok by your medical practitioner before being undertaken. Here are a few of the more popular complementary therapies on offer.
While it is best to avoid acupuncture if your immune system is low, for many people this ancient Chinese form of therapy is a gateway to pain relief and well-being. Based on ancient techniques, the practitioner uses sterile needles to pierce skin just below the surface at various pressure points all over the body. Reports have found that many patients feel relief from symptoms including pain and nausea.
The needles are believed to stimulate the nervous system, prompting the release of the body’s natural painkillers, which then target the weakest parts of the body promoting self-healing.
From athletes to spa days, the massage is a tried and tested path towards healing and relaxation. Not all massages will suit everyone and if you’re used to a gentle Swedish massage, complete with oils and soft music it might be best to steer clear of the Chinese deep tissue version, which can have you gritting your teeth as the deep knots of tension are ground out of you.
For people going through treatment for a condition such as cancer, there are many clinics out there offering an oncology massage totally geared towards relaxing your mind as well as body. Tell your practitioner what your specific needs are before the session and highlight any existing problems or painful areas.
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This technique harnesses the power of the mind and uses it as a tool to combat the stresses and strains often associated with the management of illness or a physical disability. It allows the patient to focus on images that lead to a deep sense of relaxation that in turn can lead to better sleeping patterns, a reduction of anxiety and a boost to the immune system.
The visualisation might lead you to imagining a time when you felt strong and well, or a place where you felt at your most relaxed. While this therapy may or may not make an impact on your physical health, it is certainly powerful enough to ward off rising feelings of anxiety and stress.
In a similar way to visualisation, this practice takes you out of your normal patterns of thought and into a more guided way of thinking. Mindfulness in particular asks you to focus very much on the present, right now and how you are feeling. It is a practice that encourages you to face the fears and pressures that you are experiencing and breathe through them, acknowledging and allowing them to exist but not to overwhelm you.
It helps provide a more positive response for dealing with problems as and when they arise and in a similar way to visualisation helps break negative thought patterns and reactions.
One of those alternative treatments that tends to divide opinion. While there is little medical proof that homeopathy has any medical effectiveness, it is certainly a treatment that can help drive away anxiety whether this is by a so-called placebo effect or the body’s genuine response to this plant and herb-based treatment is still under discussion.
What is certain is that however you use it, it shouldn’t replace your main form of treatment.
If you thought this just added zing to your favourite Asian dishes, then think again. This spice has been shown to contain an ingredient that has the effect of lowering the toxicity of cancer cells.
While this is great news and remains under scientific exploration, it’s hard to use it as a treatment as there is currently not enough information around dosage.
This therapy uses massage of the hands and feet to stimulate organs in the body and clear any blockages that might have built up in the body’s energy pathways.
For many it is a strange sensation but at the very least has been found to promote a sense of well-being and relaxation. Still others have reported that the therapy has boosted their immune system and helped overcome specific areas of pain in their bodies.
As with all complementary therapies, this one comes with a warning and it is recommended that anyone with cancer makes sure their therapist is trained in dealing with cancer patients. Those suffering blood clotting disorders or diabetes are also advised to seek medical opinion before undertaking a course.
When you’re undergoing some of the most gruelling times in your life, chances are you’ll be looking to find as many ways as possible to manage your condition and feel as good as you possibly can.
With so many alternative and complementary therapies on the market, it’s hard to know what works and which might end up causing more harm than good.
What is certain is that there are some tried and tested practices that will help, from gentle exercise to massage, anything that helps you relax and fight anxiety is something worth exploring. Tempting as it might be to try a miracle cure or a technique that hasn’t quite made it in to your doctor’s list of approved therapies, it’s always best to approach these things with caution and a healthy degree of scepticism.
Take your future into your own hands, talk to the experts and see how you can find a way back to feeling yourself.