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Complementary and alternative medicine (also known as CAM), is a range of practices that can be used to complement to conventional medical treatments. For patients with mesothelioma, alternatives are not replacements for medical procedures aimed to eliminate tumors, but are useful in easing symptoms or side effects of the disease or difficult treatments like chemotherapy.
One category of CAM includes body-based therapies. These therapies involve manipulating the physical body, such as through massage or adjustments of the musculoskeletal system, to help relieve pain and other symptoms. Body-based therapies for mesothelioma are not cures but are proven to benefit patients. They can be a great complement to traditional medical treatments.
What Are Body-Based Therapies?
Body-based therapy is often referred to as manipulative therapy. Like the name implies, manipulative therapy refers to any alternative therapy that manipulates the body. The most common of these therapies is chiropractic medicine, which focuses on manipulation of the spine. Another form of manipulative therapy is massage therapy which manipulates soft tissue like muscle. On the more alternative end of the spectrum, acupuncture involves manipulation of the body’s energy flow. All of these manipulative therapies are generally considered safe for patients when provided by a trained professional.
Benefits of Body-Based Therapy
For a patient with mesothelioma, there are many potential benefits of body-based therapies. These are not treatments for the cancer itself, but are instead complementary treatments that can help relieve cancer symptoms and side effects of treatments like chemotherapy. By relieving these symptoms and side effects, body-based therapies provide benefits like pain relief and improved quality of life .
A patient may seek body-based therapies for these general reasons and to feel better overall. Someone may also seek therapy for relief of specific symptoms. Body-based therapies may help relieve pain, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, digestive issues, stress, anxiety, depression, and mobility issues.
A chiropractor may work with patients to provide general or specific health care. Chiropractors are specially trained medical professionals who manipulate the musculoskeletal system to help patients heal or find relief from pain. For some health concerns, like back or neck pain, chiropractic may actually be an effective substitute for traditional medicine. Chiropractic care can be a useful complement to traditional treatments for some mesothelioma patients.
For mesothelioma patients a chiropractor may help provide pain relief, improve mobility, relieve nausea, and reduce stress and anxiety. Chiropractors also counsel patients on healthy nutrition and other lifestyle choices. With pain relief through body manipulation, a chiropractor can even help cancer patients rely less on pain medications.
Massage therapy uses touch to manipulate muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The goal is pain reduction, relaxation, improved circulation, and lower stress levels. Some people use massage primarily as a way to relax. However, research has found serious benefits to massage, especially for cancer patients.
Oncology massage is designed specifically for cancer patients and is used to help relieve pain, reduce fatigue, and improve mobility. Massage can also help cancer patients better recover from anesthesia and surgery. Mesothelioma patients interested in massage should consider working with a therapist specially trained in oncology massage. These professionals understand the specific needs and limitations of cancer patients.
Acupuncture is an ancient practice in traditional Chinese medicine. Used for centuries to treat various conditions and symptoms, the philosophy behind acupuncture is to rebalance the body’s energy flow. Practitioners believe there are lines of energy flowing through the body and that by manipulating them, the practitioner can rebalance that energy to provide relief. This is traditionally done by inserting thin needles at special pressure points in the body. Acupuncture does not hurt and there are few risks associated with the practice. However, as with all alternative treatments, be sure to seek a trained professional.
Modern researcher has discovered that patients experience many benefits from acupuncture. These benefits include reduced pain, relief from nausea, reduced fatigue, better mood, and improved sleep. Acupuncture can also help relieve dry mouth, a common side effect of cancer treatments. These benefits can help mesothelioma patients find relief from treatment side effects. It can also allow them to better tolerate longer, more intense courses of treatment.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is an alternative medical practice involving the use of electrical currents. Currents are used specifically to safely reduce pain and are low-voltage. A TENS therapist attaches electrodes to the skin, either at the location of pain or near important pressure points. Electrodes are connected to a small battery pack and deliver mild electrical pulses. Some people find relief from pain using TENS, but exactly why it helps is not fully understood. Some experts believe electrical pulses stimulate nerve cells that send signals to the brain to release pain-relieving chemicals.
For mesothelioma patients dealing with serious pain, non-medicated relief can be a great solution. A patient can learn from a therapist how to use the TENS device and then take it home to administer currents as needed. TENS is considered safe for most patients, however anyone with a pacemaker should not use it.
Body-based therapies all rely on trained professionals who manipulate the body to reduce or relieve symptoms of disease or produce relaxation. Patients living with mesothelioma may find benefits from complementary therapies. However, you should always talk to your medical team before trying any new type of treatment or therapy. Body-based therapies may not be effective for all patients, but are generally considered safe. For for most patients, there are no reasons not to give them a try.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.