Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can work alongside conventional cancer treatment to help you feel better. There are many types of therapies, so it’s important to understand the differences between them and research which therapy and practitioner are right for you. It’s also important to talk to your healthcare team about any complementary therapy you are considering.

What are complementary therapies?

Complementary therapies can help you improve your overall health and well-being, and help you cope with the side effects of conventional cancer treatments. To understand how a complementary therapy may be used, it helps to know what we mean by conventional cancer treatments and complementary therapies.

Man holding a yoga matt outdoors

Choosing a complementary therapy and practitioner

Your healthcare team may be able to recommend complementary therapies to help you cope with side effects or suggest complementary therapy practitioners who work with people with cancer. Be thorough – evaluate the research evidence of the therapy that you think might help you and ask about the qualifications of the practitioner.

Man holding a yoga matt outdoors

Types of complementary therapies

The type of complementary therapy you choose will depend on many factors, including what your healthcare team recommends, what you hope the therapy will do, how safe and effective the therapy is and the cost of the therapy.

Aboriginal traditional healing

In Aboriginal traditional healing, health is seen as a balance and harmony within mind, body and spirit, and community and environment.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine. It is based on the belief that a vital energy called qi flows freely through your body to maintain balance and health.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the practice of using highly concentrated essential oils to change your mood or improve your health.  It is often used with massage.

Art therapy

Art therapy is based on the idea that art can be healing. It can be a way to express unspoken concerns, cope with cancer and reduce stress.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an ancient type of healing system and traditional medicine used in India for thousands of years. It focuses on harmony and balance between the body and mind.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a type of mind-body therapy. You learn how to use your mind to control body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tightness.

Chiropractic therapy

Chiropractic therapy is based on the idea that a healthy spine and nervous system are important for health and wellbeing. It may help people with cancer cope with some pain and discomfort.

Energy therapies

Energy therapies are based on the belief that when energy fields are flowing freely through your body you have good health.

Guided imagery

Guided imagery is based on the idea that you can use your imagination to influence your body’s health and your sense of well-being.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis can bring people to a deeply relaxed state, helping people who have cancer cope better with anxiety and depression. For some people, it can also be helpful in easing cancer pain.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy can help lower stress, ease muscle tension and make you feel more relaxed. It can also help improve quality of life.

Medical cannabis and cannabinoids

Medical cannabis and cannabinoids may help relieve some symptoms and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments.

Meditation

Meditation is a mind-body therapy that includes the practice of conscious breathing to help lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

Music therapy

Music therapy can help people cope with difficult feelings. Types of music therapy include listening to music, singing or writing songs.

Natural health products

Natural health products include vitamins, minerals and herbs. Your healthcare team can tell you if these products are safe during treatment.

Naturopathic medicine 

Naturopathic medicine is a system of healing that takes a holistic approach, focusing on the whole person rather than on a person’s illness. 

Tai chi

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that combines slow, focused body movements, meditation and deep breathing.

Traditional Chinese herbal remedies

Traditional Chinese herbal remedies can include pills, teas, powders or liquid extracts that are used along with other therapies such as acupuncture and massage.

Yoga

Yoga focuses on joining the body, mind, breath and spirit together in harmony and focus, without mental distractions.