Complementary Therapies

Patient & Family Teaching Sheet

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What are complementary therapies?

  • Complementary therapies are non-drug, symptom management tools. 
  • They may help relieve common discomforts, improve quality of life, and lessen suffering. 
  • They may be used with standard medical care and do not replace medical care. 

What are the benefits?

  • Complementary therapies may help a person ‘just feel better,’ help relieve stress and tension, and may aid in relaxation.  They may help to 
  • reduce pain, anxiety, nausea, and depression and may improve sleep. 
  • Not all therapies work for everyone, but usually, one of the many options can provide some relief. 

What are some examples?

  • Aromatherapy uses pleasant smells from oils from plants to create calm and pleasing surroundings. (Never taste or put the oil on the skin.) 
  • Art therapy uses drawings, pictures, clay, sand, and other craft activities. 
  • Massage involves gentle touching or rubbing of skin and muscles. 
  • Music therapy involves enjoying music and rhythm. Sometimes the person joins in to make the music by singing, strumming along, or keeping a beat. Others prefer to listen to their favorite songs. 
  • Pet therapy includes time with your own pet or with trained animals and their handlers. 
  • Reflexology provides gentle pressure to the feet or hands to restore a state of balance and relaxation. 
  • Reiki (pronounced Ray-key) uses “laying on hands” providing a gentle touch for ‘energy flow.’ 
  • Acupuncture involves using thin needles inserted in the body at specific points to adjust and alter the body’s energy flow.  This is not painful and may help to relieve pain and pressure. 
  • Acupressure involves applying pressure on specific points of the body. 

How do you find someone to provide them?

  • Ask your hospice and palliative care team. 
  • Tell your hospice and palliative care team about any complementary therapies you are already using.