Many moons ago, I wrote a piece for a Canadian Government Guide to Health Care. Although listed under ‘Palliative’ Services, it’s applicable to all. So, I’m sharing with the intent that you enjoy and ponder how and when Complementary Therapies can enhance your own health care.
Introduction to Complementary Therapies
Palliative Care and Complementary Therapy – What? How? Why? Where?
(from the Palliative Care Services Resource Guide Eastern Ontario 2000 section on Complementary Therapy written by J. Fairbrass)
Along with traditional medicine, complementary therapy is an approach to well-being, comfort and care by using, for example, massage, relaxation, meditation, stimulation of the body’s senses and nutritional aids.
The value of this type of therapy is becoming more accepted in the care of persons with a terminal illness. This group of therapies is used with, not instead of, medical care.
The complementary health care movement is about taking charge of your health care lifestyle. Knowing yourself, and with it takes for you to be well, helps you live your daily life in a way that promotes your health, even when you are faced with a life threatening illness. An experienced complementary therapist will help you to understand these ideas and find treatments that are best for you.
A Selection of Complementary Therapies Frequently Used in Palliative Care:
The following list includes very brief descriptions of a number of therapies. A cautionary note: as most complementary therapies are not regulated, the best way to find a therapist to work with is through a personal recommendation. Look for personal and professional experience-ask questions.
Before making arrangements for service, you are advised to inquire with therapists regarding their formal training, certification, experience, availability and service fees. Make sure that complementary therapy is that person’s main focus. An increasing number of complementary therapies are covered by Extended Health Care Insurance.
An ancient, specific technique based on the principle that there is energy which circulates through the body through channels called meridians. Any stress or illness can cause blocks in the flow of energy. The insertion of fine needles in the various acu-points may alter or increase energy flow through the body, thereby decreasing various symptoms and enhancing energy and balance.
The use of aromatic essences from plants called essential oils, to effect changes in well-being. Massage, inhalation and baths containing essential oils are used to transport the essences throughout the body to affect organ functions, including sedation, stimulation and digestive aids. The essence captures ethereal and subtle plant energies, having profound effects on the mind and emotions.
All things manifested in the universe have vibrations-energy. Each cell, organ, muscle and bones in the human body vibrates to a set frequency. Changes in vibration cause stress on the body, eventually leading to unpleasant symptoms.
Each colour of the spectrum has it own vibration. By using colour we can maintain or alter the vibrations of the body to a frequency which induces health, well-being and harmony.
As in colour therapy, changes in vibration cause stress on the body, eventually leading to unpleasant symptoms. By surrounding ourselves with soothing pleasing sounds, and gentle vibration we can maintain or alter the vibrations of the body to a frequency which induces a sense of well-being and harmony.
A combination of various natural therapies and healing techniques, using ancient traditions and modern sciences, based on “the healing power of nature”. Underlying causes of illness are considered, predominately lifestyle and dietary. Naturopaths and Naturotherapists use varying therapies, including reflexology, herbalism, aromatherapy, etc.
Massage uses therapeutic stroking and kneading usually using oil and working in a systematic pattern. The goal is to treat a specific problem and/or create relaxation in the body.
This is vast area, covering allergies to psycho-emotional issues. Nutrition is the means by which we supply nourishment to our bodies, mind, spirit and emotions. Counsellors assist clients to examine their eating habits and make appropriate changes.
A specific bodywork technique, where the therapist strokes, massage and applies pressure to the hands or feet to effect changes in another part of the body, to relax muscles and stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
The Reflexologist sees a map of the body on the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet. All energy runs through the body in lines, based on acupressure principles ending on the feet, hands, top of the head and ears. By massaging and applying pressure to specific points on the hands and feet, the whole body receives the benefit of a treatment.
The session induces rest and relaxation, relieving stress, and activating the parasympathetic nervous system to begin to repair.
Reiki is a non-invasive, gentle energy healing system based on ancient Tibetan knowledge. It can very easily be used with other therapies, including orthodox medicine.
When receiving a Reiki treatment, the client is fully clothed. The therapist gently places their hands on the body and face of the client in a set pattern. It very quickly induces deep relaxation and is therefore extremely useful in stress management. Reiki has also been successfully used in pain management.
One does not have to believe in Reiki for it to work but a positive attitude towards wellness may certainly reinforce effects of any type of treatment. A neutral or negative attitude (“I don’t know if I really believe in this”) will not block the effects of Reiki.
Relaxation techniques counterbalance stress reactions to the strains of modern living, including fight or flight feelings, release of bodily pollutants and reduction of stress. These are methods that help you relax, working with the mind and/or the body, and for some, an integrated body, mind, spirit process. Most help to consciously relax muscles and metabolism.
(also known as Hypnotherapy) – using the mind to induce relaxation or healing. It can be as simple as imagining yourself on a beach, with the therapist assisting you in creating a picture in your mind, to the complex personal approach of “seeing with your mind’s eye” thousands of “pacmen” racing through your body eating cancer cells.
Meditation Techniques – relaxation from ancient times. Meditation is stilling of the mind by focusing on one thing at a time. Although often associated with prayer through the centuries by most religions, early 20th century scientists demystified the relaxation experience.
Whether practiced with spiritual intent, or just being intent on relaxation, the calmness and well-being brought about by meditation is induced through stilling the mind, bringing attention to breathing, the body, and relaxing the body.
By awareness and progressive muscle tensing and relaxing of muscle groups is often used in conjunction with breathwork to achieve a very conscious feeling of relaxation.
Based on research into energy-based healing, the therapeutic touch method is laying-on of hands engaging human energy transfer in the act of healing. Developed by a professor of nursing, this technique is used in hospitals worldwide.
Therapeutic touch uses life energy transfer from practitioner to client to modulate energy and balance the energy field. The practitioner’s hands are held just above the client’s body in order to sense energy and detect any blocked or distressed areas.
You will most likely have heard of many more therapies as this world expands, however I trust this introduction has peeked your curiosity and you are now ready to learn more. We offer courses for beginners and professional therapists at the Jacqueline Fairbrass School of Complementary Therapies and welcome new students daily.