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Body-Based Therapies for Mesothelioma

Complementary and alternative medicine, also known as CAM, is a range of practices that can be used to treat patients as a complement to traditional medicine. For patients with mesothelioma these alternatives are not replacements for medical treatments that aim to eliminate tumors, but are useful in helping them feel better and sometimes even heal faster or cope better with difficult treatments, like chemotherapy.

One category of CAM includes therapies that are body-based. These therapies involve manipulating the physical body in some way, 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 for cancer, but they are proven to help patients get relief and can be great complements to traditional medical treatments.

What Are Body-Based Therapies?

Body-based therapy is often also referred to as manipulative therapy. These are any kind of therapy that manipulates the body in some way. The most traditional of these therapies is chiropractic medicine, which revolves around the manipulation of the spine and neck. Massage therapy manipulates softer tissues, especially muscles. On the more alternative end of the spectrum, acupuncture involves manipulation of the body’s energy flow. These are largely considered to be safe for patients as long as the therapy is provided by a trained professional.

Benefits of Body-Based Therapy

For a patient with mesothelioma, there are many potential benefits of trying body-based therapies. These are not treatments for the cancer itself, but are complementary treatments that can be used to help relieve symptoms of the cancer and side effects of treatments like chemotherapy. By relieving these symptoms and side effects, body-based therapies provide a couple of general benefits: improving quality of life for the patient and helping the patient better tolerate treatment.

A patient may seek out body-based therapies for these general reasons and to feel better overall. Someone may also target a specific type of therapy to find relief for one or more specific symptoms. Body-based therapies may be able to help relieve pain of all types, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, digestive issues, stress, anxiety, and depression, and mobility issues.

Chiropractic Therapy

A chiropractor may work with all kinds of patients, including cancer patients, to provide general or specific health care. Chiropractors are specially trained medical professionals who manipulate the musculoskeletal symptom and help patients heal and find relief without the use of drugs or traditional medical practices. For some health concerns, like back or neck pain, chiropractic may be an effective substitute for traditional medicine. For mesothelioma, it can be a useful complement to traditional care.

For mesothelioma patients a chiropractor may be able to help provide relief from pain, greater mobility, less nausea and reduced gastrointestinal issues, and less stress and anxiety. Chiropractors can also counsel patients on good nutrition and other lifestyle choices and can help provide an overall better quality of life. With pain relief through body manipulation, they can even help cancer patients rely less on pain medications.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is also practiced by trained professionals who often work in tandem with chiropractors to provide patients with complementary care. Massage therapists use touch and rubbing to manipulate muscles, tendons, and ligaments with the goal of reducing pain and relieving stress and anxiety. Some people use massage primarily as a way to relax, but research has actually found that there are some more serious benefits to using massage, including for cancer patients.

Oncology massage is a specialization that some massage therapists offer. It is designed specifically for cancer patients to use massage to help relieve pain, reduce fatigue, improve mobility, and even to recover better after going under anesthesia for surgery. Mesothelioma patients interested in massage should consider working with a therapist trained in oncology massage. These professionals understand the special needs of cancer patients and their limitations.


Acupuncture is an ancient practice in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been used for thousands of years to treat all kinds of conditions and symptoms. The philosophy behind the practice is that there are lines of energy running through the body and that by manipulating them the practitioner can rebalance a person’s energy and provide relief. This is traditionally done by inserting thin needles at special pressure points in the body. It does not hurt and there are few risks associated with acupuncture, but it should be done by a trained professional.

Modern researchers have found that patients really do experience benefits from acupuncture, including reduced pain, relief from nausea, reduced fatigue, better mood, better sleep, and even reduced dry mouth, a common side effect of cancer treatments. These benefits can help a mesothelioma patient get relief from treatment side effects and be better able to tolerate longer and more intense courses of treatment to fight the cancer.

TENS Therapy

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and it is a type of alternative medical practice that involves the use of electrical currents applied to the body. The currents are low-voltage and safe and are used to help relieve pain. A therapist attaches electrodes to the skin, either where the pain is or near important pressure points. The electrodes are connected to a small batter pack and they deliver mild electrical pulses. These are thought to stimulate nerve cells that send signals to the brain to release pain-relieving chemicals. Some people find relief from pain using TENS, but exactly why it helps is not fully understood.

For mesothelioma patients dealing with serious and frequent pain, a non-medicated way of getting relief can be a great solution. A patient can learn from a therapist how to use the TENS device and can then take it home and administer the currents as needed. TENS is considered to be safe for most patients, but anyone with a pacemaker implanted in the heart should not use it.

Body-based therapies are varied, but all rely on trained professionals who manipulate the body in some way so as to reduce or relieve symptoms of disease or to produce relaxation. Patients living with mesothelioma may find benefits from these complementary therapies but should always talk to their doctors before trying any new type of treatment or therapy. Body-based therapies may not all work for all patients, but they are generally considered safe and for most patients there are no reasons not to try them.

Page edited by 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.

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