The complementary therapies used in cancer care aim to enhance the quality of life for the cancer patient and his/her prime carer. Medical attitudes regarding the relationship between the body and the mind have changed, particularly during the last decade. In the simplistic form, ‘mind’ denotes anything of a psychological nature, including the emotional and spiritual disposition of an individual. An holistic approach to illness considers that mind and body are not separate entities, but rather interrelated aspects of a whole.
The aims of complementary therapy are to:
- Enhance mood;
- Reduce stress;
- Sharpen concentration;
- Encourage relaxation;
- Restore self-esteem;
- Improve quality of life.
Aromatherapy is an holistic therapy in which aromatic pure essential oils are gently massaged into the skin to completely relax mind and body and to relieve symptoms. Three drops of aromatic pure essential oil is mixed with 10mls of vegetable oil – either rapeseed or sweet almond oil. The duration of the session is 45 minutes.
Reflexology: is an holistic therapy involving the gentle manipulation of the feet. It is a pleasurable experience, profoundly relaxing for mind and body, and brings relief to a wide range of symptoms. The duration of the session is approximately 45 minutes. Hand reflexology is less frequently used, although patients may be taught how to work on their hands to induce a relaxed state of mind and body.
Remedial Massage: is a treatment which aims to restore the use of an injured part of the body by using heat treatment; TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) pads; petrissage; possible tapotement; and effleurage with pure essential oils.
Olfaction: Aromatic pure essential oils can be vaporised, causing the olfactory hairs to be stimulated by contact with the odorous molecules. The outcome can affect the patient’s mood so that s/he may feel cheerful, mellow, deeply relaxed or meditative. A water vaporiser is used in the treatment room to create a relaxed atmosphere. Alternatively, a tissue may be used to vaporize a pure essential oil and placed close to the patient to relieve symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, and headache.
Music: The vibrational sounds of relaxing music are very therapeutic, especially when the music embodies one’s deepest feelings and aspirations which lie deep in the memory and imagination. Music is soothing and calming, relaxing the mind and body and forming an integral component of holistic care.
Meditation or Visualisation: The patient is encouraged to allow his/her mind to drift back into the past. A recollection of a happy event is used to form a series of pictures in the mind. The patient is encouraged to hold onto images of warmth, peace and laughter, and even to modify the images which come into the mind. If this is too difficult, a meditation can be selected and read by the therapist. Music enhances meditation. At the end of the session, the patient should feel physically and mentally relaxed and peaceful.
Colour: Each cell of the body is light-sensitive. Each of the colours of the spectrum has its own vibration. By using colour on its own, or in conjunction with another therapy, one can maintain or alter the vibrations of the body to a frequency which induces health and harmony. A crystal torch can be used on the charkas, or reflex zones of the feet, or patients can focus on a particular colour or wear the colour required, preferably over a white cotton garment.
During the course of six weeks, patients are invited to bring in their prime carer to facilitate the teaching to both parties of their individualised programmes of care, together with:
- The teaching of relaxation techniques and therapeutic touch.
- The management and storage of oils, and how to deal with spillage.
- The preparation of a suitable environment for relaxation at home.
- The value of music and visualisation as a form of relaxation.
- The importance of armchair relaxation and breathing technique.
- Various methods of vaporisation of pure essential oils.
The benefits of massage and reflexology are recognised to be:
- Deepen breathing.
- Reduce blood pressure.
- Improve blood circulation.
- Improve lymph circulation.
- Reduce swelling/inflammation caused by infection.
- Reduce lymphoedema – using manual lymphatic drainage.
- Help improve the flow of urine.
- Help relieve constipation.
- Stimulate the immune system.
- Reduce muscle tension – primary and secondary.
- Improve sleep/lead to reduction of sleeping medication.
- Relieve pain/lead to reduction of pain medication (may be temporary).
- Help to increase appetite.
- Help to reduce headaches.
- Reduce fear, tension, stress and anxiety.
- Increase feelings of calmness and relaxation.
- Improve self acceptance, awareness, and self esteem.
- Help to reduce anxiety about medical interventions/treatments.
- Increase the ability to deal with the status quo.
- Improve recuperation following surgery.
- Increase a sense of well-being.
- Improve the quality of life.