The connection between emotional stress and cancer survival can be explained by recent findings in psychoneuroimmunology. Its research suggests that the persistence of cancer cells depends in part on internal body controls that retrain or stimulate tissue growth; psychological factors appear to regulate these controls through neurological, hormonal, and immunologic pathways. These and other mind/body links could play a major role in determining a person`s ability to survive cancer and mind/body therapies should be employed to alleviate these psychological factors. These are not part of standard support but some of these therapies are available to patients in some cancer centers for relieving symptoms and reducing anxiety. Always make sure a trained, registered therapist treats you.
Acupuncture is one of the most ancient and characteristic techniques of Chinese medicine. From ancient times, this technique was valuable in the treatment of both acute and chronic diseases. Acu means needle, puncture means to prick or to penetrate. Acupuncture needles are placed along points in the skin`s surface to help release the flow of energy (chi) through a series of pathways or channels, which link and unite all parts of the body into a single integrated whole and restore health and balance.
Each internal organ has its corresponding channel. If for some reason the circulation of this energy is disrupted or blocked then organs associated with the channels will work less effectively and ill health will result. The purpose of diagnosis is to establish which channels or organs require adjustment to restore the smooth circulation of energy, and thus balance the whole system.
There are about a thousand points on the body surface. After diagnosis six to ten points are selected for treatment. Thin, small needles are inserted at these points. The needles are then stimulated with the help of a battery-operated machine. The current used is of only 9 volts which is harmless. Needles are withdrawn after 15-20 minutes. This schedule is termed as sitting. Normally one sitting a day for 10 days constitutes one course. Review is carried out after a 10-day gap before starting the next course if required.
A number of scientific studies have shown how acupuncture works and how it can help in pain relief. Studies show that during acupuncture the body releases endorphins, natural chemicals that can relieve pain, relax muscles and increase feelings of well being.
Acupuncture may sometimes be used to treat side effects of cancer treatment, such as nausea. Seabands (acubands), which work on a similar principle, by applying pressure to a specific area of the wrist, may also be helpful.
Particular groups of acupuncture points are believed to control specific areas of pain sensation. The procedure has been used as an anesthetic in China and elsewhere to treat many types of pain, but its usefulness for cancer patients has not been proven. Most doctors believe that it is not harmful as long as the needles are sterile. Acupuncture, however, should not be used for patients who are getting chemotherapy because of the danger of increased bleeding where the needles are placed.
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Yoga is a powerful aid to healing, not least because it can help to strengthen the immune system. For anyone with cancer, yoga is a genuine source of empowerment - because it is something that one can do for oneself.
There are many different styles and ways to practice yoga. For cancer recovery, gentle yoga, yoga therapy, restorative yoga, yoga for healing, and yoga for beginners may be practiced. In yoga, the body is addressed by practicing physical postures (also called asanas). These stimulate and balance all the systems of the body: musculoskeletal, nervous system, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, reproductive and urogenital. The whole person is affected when something is out of balance, thus a number of postures are practiced in a sequence to address the whole body.
Depending on what parts of the body are affected, what type of cancer one has (or had), and the one`s physical abilities, the practice will be patient specific. The physical exercises of yoga work in various ways on the internal organs and all the body systems, particularly the nervous system, as well as on the joints, muscles and ligaments. They affect breathing, posture, circulation, digestion and elimination, as well as physical strength, stamina and flexibility.
When practicing a posture, one should do what one can without creating more pain. One may feel discomfort, but going to the point of sharp pain is not going to benefit in any way. Sometimes the postures are easier if one actually does less.
These practices also help one to cope with the traumas that come with a diagnosis of a life-changing illness, which, as anyone with cancer knows, brings with it emotions that can be overwhelming: shock, fear, anger, guilt, anxiety and grief to name the most obvious. Having experiencing them, the simplest breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques can help one deal with them. They can also be of considerable help in coping with the stresses of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
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Shiatsu, a Japanese technique similar to acupressure, uses finger and thumb pressure on precise body points to encourage the proper flow of chi or ki, as the Japanese call it, a vital force or energy believed to circulate through the body. Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage. Like acupuncture, it is based on the idea that good health depends on the balanced flow of energy through specific channels in the body called meridians. Pressure is placed on the appropriate meridians to help the person`s energy regain its balance. Many people find shiatsu relaxing and re-energizing, and gain help with pain and other symptoms.
Therapeutic touch does not involve actual physical contact. Despite its name the practitioner`s hands move in slow, rhythmic motion two to six inches above the patient in an effort to detect what are said to be blockages in the body`s energy field that may cause or contribute to illness. The technique was devised a few decades ago as a contemporary version of various ancient practices in which a healer consciously strives to direct and focus energy to the receiver to balance and unblock energy flows. Sessions typically last about 20 minutes and are said to produce a sense of relaxed well being, as well as relief from pain and other symptoms.
Shiatsu improves health generally by relieving stress, calming the nervous system and stimulating the circulatory and immune systems. It is particularly effective for stress-related tension and illnesses, insomnia, back pain, headaches and digestive upsets. However, through its stimulation of the hormone system shiatsu can also affect the digestive and reproductive systems.
Shiatsu treatment has significant anecdotal evidence to support its effectiveness in helping the body resolve many conditions. It does not profess to cure all complaints but can help the body and you on the way to a better state of well being. For example some of the imbalances that Shiatsu has helped to alleviate are, back ache, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, whiplash, migraines, arthritis, menstrual issues, sports injuries, post surgery trauma, depression, general tiredness, nervous system disorders, anorexia, asthma, bulimia and support of clients undergoing treatment for cancer. The benefits and applications of Shiatsu are many, from preventative to curative.
The build up of stress is a major cause of ill health. Once this is eliminated, the body`s innate healing power takes over. Through relaxation and stress release, Shiatsu has been used to relieve such conditions diagnosed as asthma, migraine, bronchial chest complaints, high blood pressure, rheumatic or arthritic conditions, back pains, spinal curvature, sciatica and hyperactivity. Regular treatments have been found to benefit people with epileptic symptoms and more persistent illnesses such as scleroderma, cancer and M.E.
Complementary therapies, such as massage and aromatherapy, are rising in popularity among patients and healthcare professionals and are increasingly being used in palliative care to improve the quality of life of patients.
The American Cancer Society views massage as an important complementary therapy for cancer patients. Massage reduces stress and relaxes patients. It bolsters the immune system and helps remove toxins from the body. It helps with circulation and restores energy. It reduces pain and minimizes the effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. It enhances a patient`s body awareness and allows them to direct energy toward healing.
Massage includes an assortment of manual therapies that manipulate the soft tissues of the body in order to reduce tension and stress, increase circulation, aid the healing of muscle and other soft-tissue injuries, control pain and promote overall well being. It involves the manipulation of muscles by a professional massage therapist. It increases blood flow and oxygen levels in the body`s soft tissue, which can help relieve symptoms and ease the impact of treatment side effects in some cancer patients.
In traditional oncology, the characteristic mindset is to lead in the war against cancer, and the weaponry used is an arsenal of cytotoxic chemicals and radiation. What is desperately missing in many obsolete hospitals and outpatient clinical settings is the feminine principle to direct the patient closer to a healthful state. The feminine aspect would strengthen rather than attack, promote nurturance instead of survival, and substitute pleasure for pain and personal liberty for total dependence.
Ultimately, the aim is to assist and support the person with cancer in making informed decisions regarding the following areas: to improve overall health and well-being: creating a healthy lifestyle, supporting healthy relationships, and purifying the environment (detoxify physiological terrain and purify external environs). An improved attitude, diminished side effects, and an increase in energy will result in health promotion on all levels. Massage and other healing strategies are integrated to increase this vital energy. Equilibrium must be restored for the body to heal itself both on physical and psycho-emotional-spiritual levels. Due to the disturbance in the psycho-spiritual body, massage with aromatherapy can be of principal importance.
Massage therapy consists of manual techniques that include applying fixed or movable pressure, holding, and/or causing movement of or to the body, using primarily the hands but sometimes other areas such as forearms, elbows, or feet. These techniques affect the musculoskeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, and other systems of the body
For years, massage has been contraindicated for cancer patients. Massage schools, mostly fearing that bodywork could spread cancer, largely taught their students to avoid working with cancer patients. The notion is still pervasive among massage therapists.
Although cancer cells do travel via the lymphatic system, comfort-oriented massage cannot spread cancer. Massage does not increase lymphatic circulation any more than any of a number of day to day activities. If increased circulation led to increased spread of cancer cells, doctors would warn patients against any activity at all, which they clearly do not.
Because massage usually involves applying touch with some degree of pressure, the massage therapist must use touch with sensitivity to determine the optimal amount of pressure appropriate for each person.Understanding the client`s type and stage of cancer is essential information for the therapist wanting to help the cancer patient.
The concern has been that massage might exacerbate metastatic cancer. Some oncologists suggest relaxation massage. However, the cancer site should be avoided. Deep tissue techniques should not be used. Other limitations that one should be aware of are the four stages of treatment: "diagnosis/pre-treatment, treatment, post-treatment/survivorship and advanced disease/relapse," and what to expect of a client`s physical and emotional condition in each stage. The therapist should also realize the "stages of pain," and how he can provide the client relief from stress, emotional release and a time of relaxation, as well as relief from physical symptoms such as edema and nausea.
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Acupressure is believed to remove trapped energy and promote the free flow of "qi" or "chi," the supposed "life force" or vital energy that is believed to travel throughout the body along invisible channels called meridians. It involves the application of pressure or localized massage to specific sites on the body to control symptoms such as pain or nausea. It is also used to stop bleeding.
The life force concept is basic to many Chinese and Eastern cultures. It is the main idea behind traditional Asian therapies such as Ayurvedic medicine from India, qi gong and other ancient exercise techniques, and acupuncture, an important component of traditional Chinese medicine. .
Acupressure is like acupuncture because it uses the same "acupoints" for treatment, but it does not include the use of needles. It is a type of highly localized massage. Firm finger pressure is applied to a specific point for several minutes. More than one point may be used in a single treatment. Although acupressure can be learned and used individually, it is often given by trained acupressure or acupuncture practitioners. Because there are many acupoints, it takes time to learn them all and to know which should be used to treat specific problems.
Studies show that acupressure does control pain and relieve nausea. Like acupuncture and some other hands-on therapies, acupressure may stimulate the release of endorphins, the body`s natural pain killers. Exactly how it may work remains uncertain.
Acupressure may offer breast cancer patients help in alleviating the nausea caused by chemotherapy according to a report from the Institute for Health and Aging, University of California, San Francisco, USA.
The researchers at the Institute recorded differences in nausea frequency and intensity in women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer between those patients who received standard care and those who received standard care together with acupressure treatment. The results revealed significant differences between the women who received acupressure treatment and those who didn`t. Within the first 10 days of the chemotherapy cycle, the women who received acupressure treatment had reported less intensity and experience of nausea.
Like other complementary therapies, acupressure therapy may be used in relieving certain symptoms of cancer and side effects of cancer treatment. Acupressure should not, however, be expected to slow or reverse growth or spread of cancer.
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Bodywork is an umbrella term for many techniques, both ancient and modern, that promote relaxation and treatment of ailments (especially those of the musculoskeletal system) through lessons in proper movement, postural re-education, exercise, massage and other forms of bodily manipulation. Some types of bodywork—including massage, qigong, reflexology, shiatsu and t`ai chi—can be practiced at home.
While there are a wide variety of forms of massage therapy and bodywork, all with their own theoretical or philosophical perspectives, there are certain basic principles they all tend to hold in common: Recognition of the importance of blood circulation and movement of lymphatic fluid is implicit in all forms of massage and bodywork; the release of toxins and tensions; enhancement of all bodily symptoms; reduction of stress and mind-body integration.
Massage therapy and bodywork obviously have a very broad, diverse range of applications. Essentially, they can support any health condition that would benefit from greater blood circulation and the release of tension. Psychological conditions also are affected beneficially, as the physiological changes that occur with these kinds of intervention help harmonize and rebalance the nervous and hormonal systems. The ability of massage to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress is a logical counter to the strain a cancer patient must deal with in facing a life-threatening condition and traumatic treatment.
Many people wonder about whether massage or bodywork could cause a cancer to metastasize. This is an area where research is needed to define the risk. Practitioners are generally taught to err on the side of conservatism. For example, massage is not recommended for someone immediately after chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
Physiologically, it is not easy to metastasize a tumor from simple pressure and studies have shown that the body has a number of layers of defenses to prevent that from happening simply from touch. It is known, however, that certain kinds of chemotherapies in particular make the tissue fragile for a couple of days and massage immediately after such therapies might irritate the tissues. If there was any danger of metastasizing, it would be more likely to happen closer to the treatment. A conservative response would be to use much lighter forms of massage.
Bodywork is increasingly being incorporated into complementary cancer therapy programs. At the Cancer Support and Education Center in Menlo Park, California, it has been an integral part of a program that resulted in significant improvement in quality of life, even for patients with metastatic disease. Others may require the guidance of a trained professional. Some forms of bodywork are:
The Alexander Technique
Focuses on correcting habitual posture and movement patterns that are believed to damage or impair the body`s functioning.
Is a technique that tailors guided movement and postural retraining to the particular characteristics of each client`s body.
Features individual sessions performed by a trained practitioner, during which verbally directed exercises, touch and movement are used to teach new patterns in order to improve posture, movement and breathing.
An offshoot of Rolfing (Structural Integration) , combines touch and movement retraining to teach stress-free methods for performing everyday activities.
Is a form of deep massage used to reduce tension and pain originating in specific points in the muscle layers of the body.
("chee-goong") is an ancient Chinese discipline which emphasizes breathing, meditation, stationary as well as moving exercises to enhance the flow of energy or chi (sometimes also spelled "qi") through the body.
Reflexology is a specialized form of foot massage that is related to the Chinese practice of acupressure. The theory underlying this therapy is that different areas on the sole of the foot represent and are connected to the body`s internal organs. By systematically putting pressure on these points, symptoms such as pain, constipation and sickness can be relieved. Many people report that reflexology can help reduce tension and pain and may be able to help with some symptoms of advanced cancer and improve energy levels.
It involves the manipulation of specific areas on the feet—and sometimes the hands—with the goal of bringing the body into homeostasis, or balance. According to reflexologists, distinct regions of the feet correspond to particular organs or body systems, and the stimulation of the appropriate region is intended to eliminate energy blockages thought to produce pain or disease in the structures. The arrangement of reflexology areas on the feet mirrors the organization of the body to the extent that organs on the right side of the body are represented on the right foot, and similarly with the left.
Practitioners of reflexology claim that it can relieve a wide variety of ailments. Critics say that treatments are no more than glorified foot massages. Rolfing, also called Structural Integration, is based on the belief that proper alignment of the various parts of the body is necessary for physical and emotional health. The method uses deep massage and movement exercises to loosen or release adhesions in the fascia—the connective tissue covering muscles—in an effort to bring the body back into correct alignment.
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