Some patients find complementary therapies beneficial in addition to their lung cancer treatments.
Below are common complementary practices:
Acupuncturists put fine, sterile needles just under the skin into points or apply a laser probe on acupuncture points along the meridian channels in the body.
This is the use of aromatic essential oils extracted from plants for healing relaxation. They are used mainly during massage but can also be used in baths, inhalations, or vaporizers (oil burners).
Art therapy is a way of using visual art to express feelings. An art therapist helps you explore the images you have created to encourage understanding of your emotions and concerns.
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient Indian system of medicine. It is based on the foundation that health is achieved when the mind, body and spirit are in balance. Practitioners use a wide range of therapies including nutrition and herbal medicine, massage, meditation, and yoga.
Body-based practices, including energy therapies, can be divided into two categories:
- Passive bodywork techniques - Therapies where some form of touch or manual pressure is applied to your body or the unseen energy field surrounding your body, eg, massage, aromatherapy, reflexology
- Active exercise techniques - Require you to actively undertake a series of movements to stimulate and stretch different parts of the body, eg, yoga, tai chi, qi gong
Through discussions with a counselor or psychologist, you can identify problems and explore ways of resolving negative thoughts and feelings that impact on your health and day-to-day life.
Energy therapies work on the concept that everyone has an energy field and unblocking it restores balance. Techniques include:
- Bowen therapy
- Polarity therapy
- Healing touch
- Therapeutic touch
Deep relaxation is used to help people become more aware of their inner thoughts. This can help them overcome mental blocks that have previously stopped them from dealing with anxiety, fear, low self-esteem, pain, insomnia, and unwanted habits.
Life coaching is about helping people develop their personal, spiritual, physical, and professional lives. It encourages people to live enjoyable lives and is focused on finding solutions and getting results.
Massage involves moving (manipulating) muscles and rubbing or stroking soft tissues of the body.
Mind-body techniques are based on the belief that what we think and feel can affect our physical and mental well-being. They include relaxation and meditation, counseling, hypnotherapy, art therapy, music therapy, and life coaching.
Music therapy uses music to improve health and well-being. A music therapist helps people engage with different aspects of music.
Qi gong – pronounced "chee goong" – is also part of traditional Chinese medicine. "Qi" means one's life energy, and "gong" means work. It combines movement with controlled breathing and meditation.
Reflexology is a form of foot and hand massage. Reflexologists believe that certain points on the feet and hands correspond to the body’s internal organs and systems, like a map.
Relaxation and Meditation
Relaxation usually includes slow breathing and muscle-loosening exercises to physically and mentally relax the body. Meditation is an ancient practice that involves holding your attention on a subject such as breathing. There are many different types of meditation. Mindfulness meditation means being aware and present in each moment. Guided imagery, or visualization, uses your imagination to create healing thoughts.
Tai chi is a part of traditional Chinese medicine that combines movement, breath work, and meditation. Movements create stability in the body, reflecting an ancient Chinese concept of balance known as "yin and yang."
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) looks at the connection between mind, body, and environment to prevent and manage diseases, such as cancer. TCM practitioners consider the person’s overall condition, not just the symptoms. It may help people with cancer strengthen their vital force and cope with the side effects of conventional treatment. TCM includes acupressure, acupuncture, qi gong, tai chi, and the use of foods and herbs to improve health.
Yoga involves performing poses with the body, slowing and deepening the breath, and focusing the mind. Yoga originated in India but is now popular around the world. There are many styles of yoga with varying intensity—from gentle, such as hatha yoga, to vigorous, such as ashtanga yoga/Iyengar. Some styles may not be suitable during some stages of cancer.
Other Active Exercise Techniques
There are other exercise techniques you might like to explore. Although studies with people who have cancer are limited, they are generally accepted as being beneficial for improving breathing, strength, flexibility, mobility, fitness, and general well-being.
- Alexander technique: Although not a type of exercise, this approach to balance and well-being in mind and body teaches people to be aware of the way they move and hold themselves. By changing the way people use their body, they can enhance their mental and physical functioning on many levels.
- Feldenkrais: This method helps people become more aware of the way they move and how this contributes to or compensates for bad posture, pain and mobility restrictions. By gently retraining the mind and body to be open to new possibilities in movement, people find ways to become freer and more comfortable.
- Pilates: A program that encourages the mind to be aware of its control over one’s muscles. Using awareness of one’s breath and posture, the method helps to strengthen core muscles and correct postural habits that have contributed to pain, reduced mobility, and poor coordination.
- Strength training or lifting weights (resistance training): This active exercise technique is growing in popularity, particularly for people who have had treatment for breast cancer.
For further details on holistic treatments, including side effects, benefits, and finding a practitioner, visit the websites of Cancer Council and the American Cancer Society.
Source: Cancer Council, American Cancer Society