By Jackie Clark
Alternative therapies such as reiki, massage and acupuncture are showing promise in the treatment of pain and anxiety in cancer patients. Treatments that were once on the far edge of medical science are now gaining acceptance as hard evidence supports their use and provide clues to the physiological mechanisms involved.
Reiki is a modern technique based on ancient ideas. Founded in 1922 by Mikao Usui, a devotee of Japanese Buddhism, Reiki is based on the belief in a life force called ki. In a Reiki treatment, the therapist causes this force to flow into the patient’s body by placing hands on their body or sometimes passing hands over them without touching.
Reiki has been used successfully in the treatment of headaches, nausea, asthma, muscular pains, menstrual symptoms and many other problems. While there is a spiritual aspect to Reiki teachings, its practitioners claim belief is not necessary and that even those who do not believe in concepts like “life force” can benefit from the treatment if they give it a chance.
Specifically, Reiki can be used in cancer cases to relieve both physical pain and emotional anxiety. Patients in chemotherapy have reported relief of post-treatment discomfort after having Reiki therapy.
Acupuncture involves the use of thin needles inserted in the patient’s skin at certain points of the body. Again the principal is based on freeing and directing life force through the body. Acupuncture is used to treat a wide variety of pains and conditions, including aggressive cancers like mesothelioma. There is abundant scientific evidence that it works, though the mechanism remains elusive.
Acupuncture is endorsed by the American Cancer Society for the treatment of vomiting following chemotherapy or surgical anesthesia. Studies of patients who received acupuncture found that they suffered less headache pain and used fewer pain drugs than patients who did not get acupuncture.
There is a great deal of evidence about the value of massage in cancer patients. Medical providers recognize its value for relieving stress, anxiety and pain during cancer treatment. Massage helps muscles relax, creating a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. Many patients report needing fewer pain medications after massage therapy.
There are many types of massage, and while each has its specialists, most massage therapists freely mix techniques. Massage therapy is now offered by many hospitals and cancer centers as a means of relieving discomfort of both the mind and body.
The infographic below provides some of the emerging facts