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Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies: non-medical care

IMPORTANT: Be sure to discuss any form of complementary therapy you may be considering with your doctor.

While exploring ways to enhance their psychological and emotional wellbeing, some patients have found that certain complementary therapies may help alleviate symptoms and side effects, such as nausea and pain, in addition to giving them a feeling of greater control over their disease and its treatment.

Complementary therapies aimed at reducing tension and promoting relaxation may be especially useful for caregivers.

Complementary therapies can be used in addition to the treatments prescribed by your doctor. They should not be confused with alternative therapies, that are used instead of conventional treatment.

Complementary vs alternative : An important distinction
Complementary therapies Alternative therapies
Used IN ADDITION to the treatments prescribed by your doctor Used INSTEAD of conventional treatment
Common types of complementary therapies

Acupuncture, which is part of traditional Chinese medicine, focuses on balancing the body's own life force to restore wellbeing.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe that the body's life force (Chi) becomes unbalanced when someone is ill.  Thin acupuncture needles are applied to areas of the body where the life force has been blocked, in order to restore health and balance.

Acupuncture can be used to alleviate pain and sickness, and to relax muscles. 


Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils (concentrated oils from plants) and massage to reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety. A variety of oils with specific scents and properties are used to produce different results.

It may be best for you to avoid using oils on your skin while you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, both of which can make your skin very sensitive.

That said, lightly scented candles can be used to help relieve nausea and promote relaxation. 


Massage, which can be both therapeutic and relaxing, is used to relieve muscle pain and tension.

Be sure to tell the massage therapist that you are a myeloma patient and that forceful massage could damage your bones.


Meditation is a gentle mental exercise that can help reduce anxiety, stress and pain. Breathing techniques and concentration are used to relax each part of the body in turn.

Meditation can help promote sleep and relieve tension.


Reflexology is a specialized form of therapeutic foot massage that is based on the theory that different areas of the foot are connected to the body's internal organs.

Pressure is applied to different points on the sole of the foot to help relieve pain and sickness.

This type of massage can be very relaxing.


Reiki is an ancient form of healing that uses the body's own energy or life force to restore a sense of balance or calmness, release tension and reduce pain.

The reiki healer channels energy through his or her hands to various parts of your body. Although he or she does not actually touch you, you may feel sensations of heat, cold, vibration and tingling on the skin.

You can remain fully clothed while receiving reiki healing.  


Visualization involves the use of mental imagery while you are in a state of meditation or relaxation. It can be used as a relaxation tool, or to reduce stress and anxiety.

Picturing yourself in a peaceful scene can promote relaxation.

Some patients imagine their immune system destroying myeloma cells or visualize their blood counts coming up.   

If you are considering any of these complementary therapies, you should ideally look for a registered therapist who has experience treating cancer patients. Always check therapists' qualifications and credentials, as well as their previous experience.

Many cancer centres offer some of these complementary therapies (there may be additional fees), or can give you information about services available locally.