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Six Complementary Therapies to Help People with Cancer

Many complementary methods can help relieve unpleasant side effects and improve a sense of well-being and quality of life for people with cancer even though they don’t treat the cancer itself. These include:

  • Massage. Gentle kneading and manipulation of muscles and tendons can relieve muscle tension and stress. Check with your healthcare provider about when massage is safe. Massage may cause bleeding and bruising during times of low platelet count, and deep tissue or spinal manipulation may be unwise for you.
  • Guided imagery, meditation and hypnotherapy. These relaxation methods use mental-focus exercises to promote a state of deep concentration that can help relieve stress, anxiety and pain.
  • Aromatherapy. Using fragrant oils to affect your mood may promote a general sense of well-being.
  • Yoga and tai chi: These combine physical movement, breathing exercises and meditation to improve relaxation and ease stress.
  • Acupuncture. Practitioners use tiny needles inserted in the skin to stimulate specific points and pathways. Acupuncture can help manage chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting and control surgery-related pain.
  • Creative outlets. Some people find that art, music, dance or journal writing helps ease stress and tension and improve day-to-day enjoyment.
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