ACUPUNCTURE – Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force, known as chi (CHEE), believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow.
JOHN’S WORT – This is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ills including depression. It is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression in the United States but it is a popular depression treatment in Europe. It may be helpful if you have mild or moderate depression; however, it should be used with caution as St. John’s Wort can interfere with a number of medications, including antidepressants, HIV/AIDS medications, drugs used to prevent organ rejection after a transplant, birth control pills, blood-thinning medications and chemotherapy drugs.
SAMe – This dietary supplement is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. The name SAMe (pronounced sam-EE) is short for S-adenosylmethionine. Like St. John’s Wort, SAMe is not approved by the FDA to treat depression in the United States but it is used in Europe as a prescription drug to treat depression. SAMe may be helpful, but more research is needed. In higher doses, SAMe can cause nausea and constipation.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS – These fats are found in cold-water fish and in some nuts and certain plants. Omega-3 supplements are being studied as a possible treatment for depression and for depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. While considered generally safe, the supplement can have a fishy taste, and in high doses, it may interact with other medications. Although eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids appears to have heart-healthy benefits, more research is needed to determine if it has an effect on preventing or improving depression.
SAFFRON – Saffron extract might improve symptoms of depression, but more study is needed. High doses can cause significant side effects.
CHIROPRACTIC – Chiropractic adjustment is a procedure in which trained specialists (chiropractors) use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. The goal of chiropractic adjustment, also known as spinal manipulation, is to correct structural alignment and improve your body’s physical function.
HYPNOSIS – Hypnosis is a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. When you are under hypnosis, you usually feel calm and relaxed, and are more open to suggestions. Hypnosis can be used to help you gain control over undesired behaviors or to help you cope better with anxiety or pain. It is important to know that although you are more open to suggestion during hypnosis, you do not lose control over your behavior.
BIOFEEDBACK – Biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control your body’s functions, such as your heart rate. With biofeedback, you are connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback) about your body (bio). This feedback helps you focus on making subtle changes in your body, such as relaxing certain muscles, to achieve the results you want, such as reducing pain. In essence, biofeedback gives you the power to use your thoughts to control your body, often to help with a health condition or physical performance. Biofeedback is often used as a relaxation technique.
MASSAGE – Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists typically use their hands and fingers for massage, but may also use their forearms, elbows and even feet. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. Two types of massage are:
SWEDISH MASSAGE – This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
DEEP MASSAGE – This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It is increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations. Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain, muscle tension, anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia related to stress, myofascial pain syndrome, paresthesias and nerve pain, soft tissue strains or injuries, sports injuries, and temporomandibular joint pain. Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn’t ordinarily be painful or uncomfortable.
YOGA – Yoga is an ancient Hindu practice combining meditation, breathing and body postures to relax the mind and body together. The most common form of yoga used for health conditions is Hatha yoga because it has easy movements and a more relaxed pace. One of the major concerns that cancer survivors may experience long after treatment is over is lack of energy and fatigue. When studied with a group of breast cancer survivors, those who used yoga had a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate, improved energy levels and mood.