For people suffering from breast cancer, experiencing pain on some level is usually sadly inevitable. This is often due to the cancer itself but treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery can also come with unpleasant and painful side effects. Your oncologist or healthcare provider will be able to prescribe pain relief medication, but at a time when many cancer patients feel as though their body is already being pumped full of chemicals, some prefer to use natural, holistic methods of pain relief instead. These can range from herbal treatments to mental and physical exercises or even simple diet and lifestyle changes – all of which can improve your health, prognosis and offer some relief from pain. Here are some of the most commonly used natural pain relief remedies for people suffering from breast cancer.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy where thin, sterile needles are inserted into specific pressure points on the body. The aim of acupuncture is to improve the flow of vital energy (or Qi) through the body and encourage the production of the body’s natural pain relief hormones through the nervous system. These include endorphins and brain chemicals such as serotonin – when released this helps have a calming effect on the body and increases a sense of happiness and wellbeing. Cancer patients mainly use acupuncture to help reduce anxiety which makes pain worse. Another form of acupuncture (and one that might be preferable for those who don’t like needles) is wearing acubands – or ‘sea bands’. These wristbands have a small button on the inside which, when positioned around the wrist correctly, help stabilize the pulse, apply pressure to certain points and reduce feelings of nausea that can be brought on by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They get their name from their ability to also help relieve motion, travel and seasickness.
A healthy, well balanced diet is important to anyone but for those fighting cancer it is vital to provide the body with the nutrients that it needs to keep energy levels high and fight off the disease. Studies show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can have a direct impact on fighting breast cancer whilst green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale can help speed up liver and kidney function and detoxification which means emitting chemotherapy quickly so that they cause as little disruption as possible in the way of painful side effects. Fruits full of antioxidants such as berries and citrus fruits also have great immune system boosting qualities which are much needed to fend off colds and other bugs at a time when your body’s natural resources are fighting off the cancer. Comforting wholegrains such as brown pasta, bread and cereal are a good way to keep energy levels high and blood sugar levels stable which will help reduce symptoms of nausea and fatigue. Many experts also agree that organic produce is preferable for cancer patients as other produce may contain traces of pesticides and chemicals that can encourage tumor growth.
Yoga and meditation
Yoga can have benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing in cancer patients but it is important to discuss your diagnosis and treatment with a qualified yoga instructor before beginning as certain types of yoga can be strenuous on the body. On a physical level, yoga is exercise and can help improve posture and allow the body to generally build itself back up to stability following surgery. The deep breathing exercises associated with yoga and meditation also increase oxygen flow to the muscles and joints which helps relieve aches and pains. Mentally, meditation is thought to take the individual to a higher, more spiritual consciousness where your anxiety levels are lowered and the production of stress busting hormones are once again released. Some experts advise that using Guided Imagery during meditation and deep relaxation can help improve pain; this involves using visual imagery and thought techniques to almost self hypnotise oneself into believing that they are able to take control of their pain and rid themselves of the harmful cells in their body.
Certain herbal remedies have been known to decrease the pain caused by chemotherapy and even slow down the spread of cancer cells in the body. Turmeric, a spice used commonly in Asian cuisine, contains a compound called curcumin which is an anti flammatory and also has been shown to interfere with cancer cell reproduction. St Johns Wort is also a herbal, yellow plant that can be taken in capsule, powder or liquid form and is thought to help ease fatigue, anxiety and stomach upsets. However some evidence does suggest that this and other herbal remedies can interfere with cancer treatment and medication so do always check with a professional before taking any herbal treatments. The benefits of herbal rememdies is that they are generally made from natural substances rather than chemical ones and are less addictive than some perscription medication.
Massage is a great way to unwind and relax and it can also help ease pain from muscles and joints. But aside from that some experts believe that stimulating certain areas of the body can improve blood flow and encourage the production of the bodies natural pain relievers (in a similar way to acupuncture) whilst also boosting immune system health. Although it is a good tool in healing, you should wait a while before having a massage around the area where you have had surgery to avoid damaging or bruising the area and take special care if you have had radiotherapy as the skin will already be sensitive so massive oils may irritate it further.
“Acupuncture” – Breastcancer.org – Accessed 20th May 2014.
“Sea Bands” – Sea-Band.com homepage – Accessed 20th May 2014.
“Healthy Bites: The benefits of dark, leafy green vegetables” – Brain Balance Achievement Centres – Accedded 20th May 2014.
“Imagery” – American Cancer Society – Accessed 20th May 2014
“Turmeric for Breast Cancer Prevention?” – Dr Andrew Weil – Accessed 20th May 2014
“Other treatments for pain” – National Cancer Institute – Accessed 20th May 2014.
“Tracey Walton: Cancer and Massage Therapies” – Tracey Walton and Associates – Accessed 20th May 2014.
“Painkiller Addiction Treatment Program” – Addiction-Treatment.com – Accessed 23rd May 2014