When someone uses “complementary” treatments, it means they’re using one or more alternative treatments together with conventional medicine.
For example, when a cancer patient elects radiation and/or chemotherapy together with acupuncture, acupuncture is considered the complementary treatment.
Acupuncture is a well-known example of bio-field therapy, or energy medicine. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classifies energy medicine as one of the five domains of accepted CAM therapies.
A lot of research has been done on the benefits of acupuncture as a complementary treatment, but there are many other energy medicine therapies – not so well known — and I suspect they are going to grow in importance as we learn more.
They may strike some people as too far out there, but I assure you they’re the real thing. They add major benefits to a primary cancer treatment…
Continued below. . .
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What is bio-field therapy?
Bio-field therapies work on the energy fields closely integrated with the physical body. Some people refer to this energy as “life force.” Chinese medicine calls it “ch’i,” and it’s known in Ayurvedic medicine as “prana.”
The purpose of bio-field therapy is to move this energy to stimulate the body’s auto-healing response and help it recover from trauma or injury. Your body heals itself on a regular basis from injuries like cuts, broken bones, pulled muscles and even larger issues like autoimmune conditions.
You practice your own bio-field therapy in its simplest forms when you take deep, calming breaths to slow down your heart rate and reduce anxiety…
Responsible practitioners will not tell you that bio-field therapy is going to “cure” cancer. Claims or expectations may vary, but at the most basic level these therapies help reduce the side effects of conventional treatment as well as the anxiety and depression that come from having a scary disease.
A review of 66 clinical studies, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, discovered that bio-field therapies can reduce pain intensity in hospitalized cancer patients. They also reduce fatigue and increase the quality of life for people undergoing cancer treatments.1
Below are four examples of bio-field therapies that have shown positive results for cancer patients.
According to The International Center for Reiki Training, Reiki is a “Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.”2 It’s administered through the hands to the patient, without touching, in ways that move the life force to the places in the body where it’s needed to heal.
It sounds a bit “woo woo” I know…
But researchers in Alberta, Canada tested the pain and quality of life of cancer patients who received standard opioid management plus rest, or opioids plus Reiki treatment. The patients received either 1.5 hours of rest or two Reiki treatments one hour after their first afternoon dose.
The study, published in the November 2003 issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, found that patients who received the Reiki treatments experienced improved pain control and quality of life, compared to those who simply rested.3
Another study, this one published in the March 2007 issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies, tested the effectiveness of Reiki for cancer-related fatigue.
The study consisted of 16 patients, median age 59, with a variety of cancers. Using several rigorous testing methods and questionnaires to assess tiredness, pain and anxiety before and after the treatments, the researchers discovered that fatigue steadily decreased over the course of the Reiki treatments and quality of life increased. There were significant decreases in pain and anxiety as well.4
Pronounced “chee gong,” and sometimes spelled “qigong,” this Taoist practice originated in ancient China. There are hundreds of styles of Qi Gong, but all involve repeating a series of gentle, external movements designed to move and balance the body’s interior life force.
A study published in Cancer Nursing found that breast cancer patients who received three weeks of Qi Gong therapy while undergoing chemotherapy had higher white blood cell count, as well as more platelets and hemoglobin, compared to control groups who received no complementary treatment.5
And in a study performed on 162 patients with various cancers, researchers used Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy and Profile of Mood State to measure fatigue and mood of patients before and after Qi Gong therapy. They checked the patients’ C-reactive protein (CRP) levels (a marker for inflammation) before and after to determine the level of inflammation.
They discovered that Qi Gong “significantly improved overall fatigue, mood disturbance and inflammation” compared to groups receiving no additional treatment beyond the usual care.6
A 2006 study measured the effects of a 22-day regimen of Chan-Chuang qigong therapy on breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy compared to a control group.
The researchers used both a 21-item symptom distress scale and a psychological distress scale to measure results. After the 22 days, the experimental group reported less pain, heartburn, numbness and dizziness.
They also rated the overall severity of psychological distress lower than control groups. While the difference between the two groups was not huge, the checklist items “unwillingness to live” and “hopelessness about the future” were significantly improved in the experimental group compared to the control group.7
For more information about Qi Gong, including some remarkable personal experiences of cancer patients, check out Issue #707.
Qi Gong and Tai Chi are on the same spectrum of “chi-energy arts,” but they work with this energy in different ways. There are five major schools of Tai Chi, which is also considered a noncompetitive martial art.
A study published in the journal Support Care in Cancer compared the effects of Tai Chi versus psychological support alone on a group of breast cancer patients. Participants in both groups met three times a week for one hour.
After 12 weeks, results showed that patients in the Tai Chi therapy experienced improved health-related quality of life (HRQL) and increased self-esteem, while the patients in the psychological support group declined in these areas.8
Despite the name, Therapeutic Touch (TT) does not involve physical contact. Rather, the practitioner’s hands hover over the patient to correct and balance their energy fields.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Therapeutic Touch is based on the theory that the body, mind, and emotions form a complex energy field… [G]ood health is an indication of a balanced energy field, while illness represents imbalance.”9
In a study performed at the Cancer Center of Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran, Iran, 90 cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy were put into three groups: experimental (those receiving TT), placebo (those who thought they were receiving TT) and control (usual care).
Treatment was given once a day for 30 minutes, for five days. Researchers measured pain and fatigue of the patients five days before and five days after.
They found that TT was more effective in decreasing pain and fatigue than was the usual care received by the control group, and people in the placebo group also reported deterioration compared to the usual care group.10
Another study found patients with terminal cancer who received TT as part of their palliative care reported an increased sense of well-being. Twenty patients received three TT sessions lasting 15-20 minutes each, the control group rested the same amount of time.
Researchers tested the well-being of each group before and after, using the Well-Being Scale. This measures pain, nausea, depression, anxiety, shortness of breath, activity, appetite, relaxation, and inner peace.
Patients who received TT reported a greater sense of well-being, based on these tests, than did those in the control group.11
Many Western medicine practitioners, and people in general, have dismissed energy medicine as a placebo effect or being “all in the mind.”
Whether you “believe in” energy medicine or not, there’s no denying the proof that it helps people undergoing the physical, mental and emotional challenges of cancer and its conventional treatment.
Just for the record, I’ve done acupuncture myself regularly for nearly 40 years, and another extremely effective energy medicine therapy called zero balancing since about 1990. If you’d like to know more about zero balancing, it’s covered in our book The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Pain (in addition to many other valuable pain strategies).