Massage, Reiki help chemo patients

Massage, Reiki and other CAM therapies help cancer patients.

So reports a local paper:

The course of treatment Sue Sells began early this year was brutal. It included radiation, chemotherapy and surgery to rid cancer in her right lung. Her oncologist told her, "'We're going to beat this,'" but later the doctor pooh-poohed some of the complementary or alternative therapies Sells wanted to try - not to replace medical treatment, but to help her deal with the stress and side effects of traditional treatment.

The 64-year-old Fort Wayne woman wasn't deterred and has used a variety of what are considered, particularly in the Midwest, complementary or alternative treatments. Through Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, Sells accessed several therapies and also found some on her own. The massage therapy Sells received at Cancer Services helped her body - and mind - to relax.

Sells also used the Japanese healing art of Reiki, aimed at increasing life force energy. Reiki practitioners help the body let go of stress, and by using energy movement through targeted areas of the body, stress is reduced and warm energy flows to improve the body's ability to fight disease or illness, according to the International Center for Reiki training in Southfield, Mich.

"I was really afraid of chemo," Sells recalled. Her Reiki practitioner explained how fear produces negative energy. She visualized in Sells' chest a cantaloupe and removing the cancer "seeds" of the cantaloupe. "I had been so stressed," Sells said. "My fears were really bad. Reiki was so relaxing and so positive."

Sells also participated in meditation at a local Buddhist temple, which helped bring calmness and peace within, she said, as she went through chemo.

Cancer Services client Charles Greer, 62, can't say enough about the good that massage therapy has done for him. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1999, surgery he had in 2004 "cut me from ear to ear," he said, leaving lots of scar tissue that severely limited his neck movements. Although he credits his surgeon for saving his voice box, the doctor told him the limited neck mobility was something he'd probably have to live with. Greer didn't accept that and began having massage therapy with Linda Danckaert at Cancer Services.

"She worked on me and got my neck loosened up. Today I can look all the way to the side when I'm driving," Greer said. Massage has also been helpful after chemo.

"Sometimes the treatments make your joints tight. I get a massage now and it really helps. It doesn't last a long time but hey, when you're a cancer patient, you'll take whatever you can to feel better."

Massage is rarely covered by insurance. Greer, whose massages are discounted through Cancer Services' subsidy program, used to get one twice a month. Now, because of his ever-increasing out-of-pocket medical expenses, "I can only get it one time a month. This isn't a cure. We take our chemo treatments. We take our radiation treatments," he said of cancer patients like himself. "But this is something that really touches the body."

Nurses Janet Carroll and Stacey Dore have been therapeutic massage therapists for 20 and 10 years, respectively, and Carroll said, "It has gone from luxury pampering to health care." Co-owners of Vital Living Therapeutic Massage, 5111 N. Bend Drive, they treat clients for chronic pain, stress, headaches and general well-being. In Indiana, massage therapists require specific training and must now be certified by the state.

"We do a lot of education on such things as postural change and on self-treatment," Carroll said.

Although Dore still works one day a week as a registered nurse, she said massage therapy "facilitates healing in a whole different way. I got into nursing for one-on-one healing. This really allows that."



In a Reiki session, the fully clothed client lies down or sits comfortably. The Reiki practitioner places his or her hands lightly on or just above the patient's body at targeted areas. A series of 12 to 15 hand positions are used as the practitioner begins to feel the warmth and flow of energy. Each position is held about 2 to 5 minutes. Visualization is often incorporated into the practice of Reiki, according to the national Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institutes of Health.

♦In a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million adults reported they had used an energy healing therapy such as Reiki within the previous year. In addition, about 161,000 children had used such therapies in the past year.

♦NCCAM-funded researchers are studying the effectiveness of Reiki on these conditions or diseases: symptoms of fibromyalgia; quality of life of AIDS patients; disease progression and/or anxiety in people with prostrate cancer; and reducing nerve pain and cardiovascular risk among people with Type 2 diabetes. For more information, visit

Tai chi
Sometimes called moving meditation, the Chinese art of Tai chi involves moving the body slowly and gently while being aware of one's breathing and sense of being.

A 2008 study, that reviewed published research and was funded by NCCAM, found Tai chi reduced participants' blood pressure in 22 of 26 studies. Some studies have also shown Tai chi to be effective in improving function in breast cancer patients and quality of life in people with HIV.

NCCAM is currently enrolling people in studies examining the effectiveness of Tai chi on people with chronic heart failure and for a comparison of physical fitness and stress reduction in adult cancer survivors using Tai chi compared to a structured exercise program. For more information, visit


In a Reiki session, the fully clothed client lies down or sits comfortably. The Reiki practitioner places his or her hands lightly on or just above the patient's body at targeted areas. A series of 12 to 15 hand positions are used as the practitioner begins to feel the warmth and flow of energy. Each position is held about 2 to 5 minutes. Visualization is often incorporated into the practice of Reiki, according to the national Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

♦In a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million adults reported they had used an energy healing therapy such as Reiki within the previous year. In addition, about 161,000 children had used such therapies in the past year.

♦NCCAM-funded researchers are studying the effectiveness of Reiki on these conditions or diseases: symptoms of fibromyalgia; quality of life of AIDS patients; disease progression and/or anxiety in people with prostrate cancer; and reducing nerve pain and cardiovascular risk among people with Type 2 diabetes.

Learn more:


Nonvitamin, nonmineral natural products are the most commonly used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy used among U.S. adults. Although overall use of CAM remained steady between 2002 and 2007, therapies that have seen a significant increase during that time include massage therapy, deep breathing exercises, meditation and yoga. The survey in 2007, unlike in 2002, examined usage of CAM among youths under age 18 and found one in nine used some sort of CAM therapy in the previous 30 days.

Source: National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine/National Center for Health Statistics 2007 National Health Interview Survey; visit

Understanding the terminology

♦Complementary medicine - used alongside conventional medicine. Acupuncture, for example, is used by cancer patients to lessen side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea. Massage therapy helps reduce stress and relaxes muscles and joints affected by chemo.

♦Alternative medicine - used instead of traditional medicine. A cancer patient who forgoes chemotherapy for a regimen of herbs or colon cleansing is using alternative therapies.

♦Integrative medicine - a holistic approach that combines conventional and complementary/alternative treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Source: National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Here's a rather generic report about risks and benefits about acupuncture entering medical mainstream:

Acupuncture originates from China and has been practiced there for thousands of years. Although there are records of acupuncture being used hundreds of years ago in Europe, it was during the second half of the twentieth century it began to spread rapidly in Western Europe, the United States and Canada. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient's skin at specific points on the body - the needles are inserted to various depths. We are not sure how acupuncture works scientifically. However, we do know that it does have some therapeutic benefits, including pain relief and alleviation from nausea caused by chemotherapy.

According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians through which gi vital energy runs. There is no histological, anatomical or scientific proof that these meridians or acupuncture points exist. Acupuncture remains controversial among Western medical doctors and scientists. Creating case studies that use proper scientific controls is difficult because of the invasive nature of acupuncture - a clinical study involves a placebo (sham product) compared to the targeted treatment. It is very hard to devise a sham acupuncture control that one can compare to proper acupuncture. While some studies have concluded that acupuncture offers similar benefits to a patient as a placebo, others have indicated that there are some real benefits. This article in a peer-reviewed British Medical Journal explains that the principles of acupuncture are firmly grounded in science, and you don't need Chinese philosophy either to make it work, or to practice it.

... acupuncture is effective for treating 28 conditions, while evidence indicates it may have an effective therapeutic value for many more. People with tension headaches and/or migraines may find acupuncture to be very effective in alleviating their symptoms, according to a study carried out at the Technical University of Munich, Germany. Another study at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that twice weekly acupuncture treatments relieve debilitating symptoms of xerostomia - severe dry mouth - among patients treated with radiation for head and neck cancer.
How did acupuncture become popular in the USA?
James Reston, who worked for the New York Times had his appendix removed (appendectomy) during a visit to China in 1971. After surgery he experienced some discomfort and was treated for this with acupuncture. He was surprised to find that the acupuncture treatment helped his discomfort tremendously. He subsequently wrote an article that year titled "Now, About My Operation in Peking". Many believe this article triggered intense interest in acupuncture in the USA. Reston wrote that the acupuncturist "inserted three long, thin needles into the outer part of my right elbow and below my knees and manipulated them...That sent ripples of pain racing through my limbs and, at least, had the effect of diverting my attention from the distress in my stomach. Meanwhile, Doctor Li lit two pieces of an herb called ai, which looked like the burning stumps of a broken cheap cigar, and held them close to my abdomen while occasionally twirling the needles into action. All of this took about 20 minutes, during which I remembered thinking that it was rather a complicated way to get rid of gas... but there was a noticeable relaxation of the pressure and distension within an hour and no recurrence of the problem thereafter."

However, a search in The New York Times shows that acupuncture was first reported in 1854, and about once yearly until 1971.
How is acupuncture treatment done?
Acupuncture generally involves several weekly or fortnightly treatments. Most courses consist of up to 12 sessions. A visit to an acupuncturist will involve an exam and an assessment of the patient's condition, the insertion of needles, and advice on self-care. Most sessions last about 30 minutes.

The patient will be asked to lie down, either face-up, face-down or on his/her side, depending on where the needless are inserted. The acupuncturist should use single-use disposable sterile needles. As each needle is inserted the patient should feel them, but initially without pain. However, when the needle reaches the right depth there should be a deep aching sensation. Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion. Once inserted, the needles will remain there for about twenty minutes.
How does acupuncture work?
Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of yin and yan of the life force known as gi or chi. Qi is said to flow through meridians (pathways) in the human body. Through 350 acupuncture points in the body, these meridians and energy flows may be accessed. Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces. If needles are inserted into these points with appropriate combinations it is said that the energy flow can be brought back into proper balance.

In Western societies and several other parts of the world, acupuncture is explained including concepts of neuroscience. Acupuncture points are seen by Western practitioners as places where nerves, muscles and connective tissue can be stimulated. Acupuncture practitioners say that the stimulation increases bloodflow while at the same time triggering the activity of our own body's natural painkillers.
Who may benefit from acupuncture treatment?
Even though acupuncture is commonly used on its own for some conditions, it is becoming very popular as a combination treatment by doctors in Western Europe and North America. The use of acupuncture to alleviate pain and nausea after surgery is becoming more widespread. Even the US Air Force began teaching "Battlefield Acupuncture" to physicians deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan in early 2009. Using acupuncture before and during surgery significantly reduces the level of pain and the amount of potent painkillers needed by patients after the surgery is over, a study revealed.

Acupuncture is also starting to make inroads into veterinary medicine. This article explains how a mare which had an infection in her ankle was treated by a vet at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech with a combination of acupuncture and traditional therapy.

As more and more physicians accept acupuncture, a wider range of illnesses and condition are being considered for acupuncture treatment. A study found that acupuncture may help indigestion symptoms commonly experienced by pregnant women.

Some studies have revealed that there are conditions for which acupuncture appears to have no beneficial effect. A study carried out by researchers at Daejon, Busan, South Korea, and Exeter, United Kingdom, found that acupuncture cannot be shown to have any positive effect on hot flashes during the menopause. However, acupuncture does offer effective relief from hot flashes in women who are being treated with the anti-estrogen tamoxifen following surgery for breast cancer, another study found.

As it is very difficult to devise clinical studies that measure the effectiveness of acupuncture against a placebo, it is hard to create a definitive list of conditions in which acupuncture may be effective. However, some studies have indicated that acupuncture may help in treating low back pain (according to the SPINE trial), fibromyalgia (Mayo Clinic trials), migraines, post-operative dental pain (the Cochrane review), hypertension (Center for Integrative Medicine at UC Irvine study) and osteoarthritis (according to researchers at the University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany), as well as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Other studies have shown that acupuncture may help women with painful periods. A Cochrane trial found that although acupuncture helps people with headaches, fake acupuncture also seems to help them.

Exercise and electro-acupuncture treatments can reduce sympathetic nerve activity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a study found.
What are the benefits and risks of acupuncture?
All therapies have benefits and risks.

The benefits of acupuncture are:
When performed correctly it is safe
There are very few side effects
It is a very effective combination treatment
It is effective in controlling some types of pain
It may be considered for patients who do not respond to pain medications
It is a useful alternative for patients who do not want to take pain medications
The risks of acupuncture are:
It is dangerous if the patient has a bleeding disorder
It the dangerous if the patient is taking blood thinners
There may be bleeding, bruising and soreness at the insertion sites
The needle may break and damage an internal organ (very rare)
Unsterilized needles may infect the patient
When inserted deeply into the chest or upper back there is a risk of collapsed lung (very rare)

St. John's Wort beat antidepressants in this report:

The popular herbal extract St. John's wort is more effective at treating the symptoms of depression than any antidepressant drug, and has fewer side effects, researchers from the Centre for Complementary Medicine in Munich have concluded.

"Overall, the St John's Wort extracts tested in the trials were superior to placebo, similarly effective as standard anti-depressants, and had fewer side effects than standard anti-depressants," lead researcher Klaus Linde said.

In a study published by the Cochrane Library, the researchers compiled the results of 29 prior trials, involving a total of 5,489 participants who were randomly assigned either St. John's wort, a placebo, tricylclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat mild to moderately severe depression. All studies were double-blind, meaning that neither patients nor researchers knew what kind of treatment each participant was receiving.

St. John's wort was found to be more effective than a placebo and at least as effective as both tricylics and SSRIs, but with fewer side effects. Patients receiving the herbal treatment were significantly less likely to drop out of studies due to negative side effects than those assigned to take tricyclic antidepressants.

The researchers called their study the most thorough to date, and possibly the first to show that St. John's wort is effective at treating not only mild, but also severe depression (also known as major depression).

St. John's wort, known officially as Hypericum perforatum, is a native European perennial herb with distinctive yellow flowers and now grows wild in many parts of the Americas as well. It derives its common name from the tradition of harvesting its flowers on St. John's day (June 24). Also known as Klamath weed or Tipton's weed, the plant has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for depression and sleeping problems.

In recent years, the popularity of the herbal antidepressant has soared as new concerns continue to emerge over pharmaceutical antidepressants, especially SSRIs. In Germany, doctors regularly prescribe it to children and teenagers. In the United Kingdom, it is currently used by two million people.

SSRIs have been shown to significantly increase the risk of suicide in those under the age of 18, and evidence suggests that they may have a similar effect on adults, as well. Recent evidence has also linked use of the drugs by pregnant women with an elevated risk of oral and heart-related birth defects.

With Western health care systems emphasizing drugs for the treatment of mental illness, however, many doctors feel they have no alternatives but to prescribe tricyclics or SSRIs, in spite of the risk. The new study may lead more doctors to prescribe St. John's wort instead.

Another recent study, conducted by St. James' University Hospital in Leeds, England, found that St. John's wort was the only herbal supplement effective at treating depression, in contrast to cat's claw, ginseng, gingko biloba, liquid tonic and royal jelly.

Researchers remain unsure precisely how St. John's wort works, in part because the plant contains chemicals from at least seven different families. The most favored explanation is that the herb acts much like an SSRI, slowing the rate at which the neurotransmitter serotonin is removed from the brain. The chemical hyperforin is posited by some as the most active chemical agent in the herb, and has been linked to slowed uptake of not only serotonin but also the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, GABA and glutamate. St. John's wort extracts from which hyperforin has been removed, however, have still been shown to function as effective antidepressants.

Tai Chi seems to help people with arthritis:

Tai Chi in China and Chai tea in India. Tai Chi is the culmination of mind and body working together as an alternative cure, helping the body heal itself.

In recent years, exercise has started to dominate the chat rooms, forums, and medical office brochures offering to ease the pain of arthritis through different forms of exerting your body physically. Although some call it "moving meditation," the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) says that the movements attributed to Tai Chi are slow and gentle, showing great awareness of the space and body as well as paying attention to the depth of your breaths.

By showing restraint while exerting force and power with your body, your mind can help calm you as well as building a closer connection to the physical being in order to help heal. Not that long ago, HealthNews ran an article about the benefits of Tai Chi among the elderlyl, citing that among the positive effects of Tai Chi on the older generations were: better concentration, more energy, greater quality of sleep, better balance and posture, muscle strength, and less stress among others that may occur like a boost in the immune system.

A new study has emerged with evidence pointing to Tai Chi being beneficial for more than just senior citizens, this time the target group is arthritis sufferers, which can start at anytime, even as a child. Recently published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, the study was done by the George Institue for International Health in Australia. The researchers found that Tai Chi is beneficial for musculoskeletal pain, by improving frequency of pain and offering a better range of movement for the afflicted person.

With millions of Americans living with arthritis and hundreds of thousands of children also suffering, it is promising that Tai Chi has developed a following in North America. Used as a common exercise routine for general health in China, the practice Tai Chi is quickly being spread across the world. Already classified as a trend in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) here in the U.S., the slow practice of movement linked with meditation is now more helpful than many may have realized.

A company called Insurancewide pitches its CAM coverage:

Many emerging alternative therapies such as reiki, hypnosis and crystal healing are not yet available on the NHS despite their increasing popularity. Various studies have shown people really do believe in the power of complementary medicine - of course some are still sceptical - and it seems our health service is not keeping up with demand. Private health insurance policies do cover alternative therapies and if you can find the right policy, at the right price, by comparing different health insurance providers using online comparison sites, you will be able to explore the various options available to you.

For those interested but with a lack of knowledge, alternative medicine can be an intriguing and perhaps confusing world - and while they may be keen to seek out some form of treatment for an ailment, they are unsure of what is the correct choice for them. It helps to know exactly what you will get when you put yourselves in the hands of an alternative therapist.

Compare Health Insurance And Alternative Therapies
Acupuncture involves placing needles into specific parts of the body, to treat the symptoms of pain as well as illness and disease. It originates from China and is perhaps the complementary therapy with the most evidence to suggest it works - research suggests it can be effective in providing relief from minor ailments such as headaches and backpain. It can also work well at relieving nausea caused by cancer treatment.

Reiki is used by practioners to channel a persons 'life force' by laying their hands on the patient to produce a healing effect. It used to treat mental and physical stress and devotees swear after a session they feel energised and back on form. As it is an 'energy medicine' some scepticism surrounds it's effectiveness, with critics claiming patients are merely experiencing a placebo effect.

Shiatsu, meaning 'finger pressure' is a form of Japanese massage - the practioner uses massage to adjust the bodies physical structure and inner energies to ward off illness. It is used to treat conditions such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, back pain and skin irritations and can improve the nervous and immune systems - again sceptics point to the placebo effect but shaitsu massage has been proven to be effective.

Hypnotherapy involves placing a person in a relaxed state, almost a light trance, and then addressing their fears, addictions and worries. It is gradually being recognised as effective in this area - when a patient is placed under hypnosis their heart rate and metabolism slows and their mind is in a more suggestive state.

Not all private health care providers will cover every single alternative therapy available - there is still a great deal of suspicion surrounding the more 'out there' ones. If you are interested in having access to alternative medicine compare health insurance providers to find the right insurance for your needs.

About Insurancewide
Insurancewide, also known as Services Limited, is an online insurance comparison website offering insurance comparison tools which allow users to search the market and procure the best insurance policies and quotes. Insurancewide was launched in August 1999 as the first insurance comparison website on the internet.

Insurancewide is FSA regulated.

Contact Details: Services Ltd
90 Long Acre
Telephone Quotes: 0870 112 8245
Telephone Our Head Office: 0870 112 8239
Email Insurancewide:

Healthology interviews my colleague Adam Pearlman, MD:

These days, telling a coworker or friend that you're off to your acupuncture appointment is unlikely to generate a suspicious look. In 1998, a survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 42 percent of the population was using some sort of alternative and complementary medicine, and it's probable that these therapies are even more popular today.

Despite the widespread use of non-traditional therapies such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, prayer, guided imagery and magnet therapy, few people are sharing their use of these therapies with their conventional healthcare providers. Patients tend not to volunteer the information, and doctors don't ask. This lapse in communication may not only prevent patients from getting the best care possible though the integration of different approaches, it can sometimes threaten a patient's health.

Adam Perlman, MD, MPH, is the medical director for the Siegler Center for Integrative Medicine at the St. Barnabas Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston, New Jersey and executive director for the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Below, Dr. Perlman discusses why doctors and patients need to have an open dialogue about complementary medicinešand offers ways to bridge the communication gap.

How would you define the terms "alternative medicine," "complementary medicine" and "integrative medicine"?
Different people define these words somewhat differently, but the way that I think about it is that "alternative medicine" implies you're either going to use conventional medicine or you're going to abandon conventional medicine and use some sort of alternative. That's not what I, nor what most of us involved in this field would advocate.

"Complementary medicine" gets a little closer to describing the way that the sorts of modalities are used most commonly in this country. For example, if you happen to have cancer and you had nausea from the chemotherapy, you would hopefully get medication for the nausea, but it often doesn't work 100 percent, or you might not want to take another medication. So you might use acupuncture to complement the conventional care you're receiving because acupuncture is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as being indicated for chemotherapy-induced nausea. So really the non-conventional, if you will, is complementing the conventional.

"Integrative" describes an approach to the care of the patient. It's trying to care for a patient by combining the best of conventional and select non-conventional modalities. It's looking beyond just the particular symptom or complaint or even disease process that someone may have and trying to look at the whole person. It's certainly a lot more than trying to replace Prozac with St. John's wort.

Are there particular diagnoses that tend to lead people to try complementary medicine?
In general, you see a higher utilization in people who have chronic diseases such as cancer and chronic pain-related conditions. The use among people with rheumatologic conditions is also quite high.

Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen today.