Complementary therapies to your medical care

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Complementary therapies are not medical care

IMPORTANT: Be sure to discuss any form of complementary therapy you may be
considering with your doctor before starting.

Complementary therapies may help you and your caregiver with your psychological and emotional well-being. There are many options, ranging from those that may help alleviate symptoms and side effects like nausea and pain, to reducing tension and promoting relaxation. Complementary therapies may also give you a feeling of greater control over your journey.

Complementary vs. alternative therapies: An important distinction:

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Complementary therapies are used IN ADDITION to the treatments prescribed by your doctor

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Alternative therapies are used INSTEAD of conventional treatment

Common types of complementary therapies

Acupuncture, which is part of traditional Chinese medicine, focuses on balancing the body’s own life force to restore well-being.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe that the body’s life force (Chi) becomes unbalanced when someone is ill. Thin acupuncture needles are applied to areas of the body where the life force has been blocked, in order to restore health and balance.

Acupuncture can be used to alleviate pain and sickness, and to relax muscles.

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils (concentrated oils from plants) that may help to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, nausea, insomnia, and more. A variety of oils with specific scents and properties are used to produce different results.

Aromatherapy can be experienced in many ways: through massage, a bath soak, a diffuser, or scented candles.

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation, please check with your doctor or radio-oncologist before using oils on your skin since your treatments can make your skin very sensitive.

Massage can be both therapeutic and relaxing and may help to relieve muscle pain and tension.

Before receiving a massage it’s extremely important to let the massage therapist know you have myeloma since forceful massage could damage your bones.

Meditation is a gentle mental exercise that can help reduce anxiety, stress, and pain. Breathing techniques and concentration are used to relax each part of the body in turn.

Meditation can help promote sleep and relieve tension.

Reflexology is a specialized form of therapeutic foot massage that is based on the theory that different areas of the foot are connected to the body’s internal organs.

Pressure is applied to different points on the sole of the foot to help relieve pain and sickness.

This type of massage can be very relaxing.

Reiki is an ancient form of healing that uses the body’s own energy or life force to restore a sense of balance or calmness, release tension, and reduce pain.

The Reiki healer channels energy through their hands to various parts of the body. Although they don’t actually touch you, you may feel sensations of heat, cold, vibration, or tingling on your skin.

You can remain fully clothed while receiving Reiki healing.

Visualization involves training your mind and using mental imagery while you’re in a state of meditation or mindfulness. It can help you picture things you want to achieve or overcome, improve your focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote relaxation (like picturing yourself in a peaceful scene).

Some people use visualization to imagine their immune system destroying myeloma cells or their blood counts coming up.

If you’re considering any of these or other complementary therapies, try to find a registered therapist who has experience treating cancer patients. Always check therapists’ qualifications and credentials, as well as their previous experience, and be sure to discuss your thoughts with your doctor before integrating any complementary therapy into your life.

Many cancer centres offer complementary therapies (there may be additional fees) or can give you information about services available locally. There are also online classes and apps for certain practices like meditation and visualization.

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Learn about medical interventions that can help manage complications and side effects.