Despite thousands of years of anecdotal evidence, and a few years of exciting scientific evidence, some people still turn up their noses at integrative medicine. However, our Western medical system, while amazing, cannot cover every area of health, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that integrative, alternative and complementary therapies play an important role.
A new study performed by the Penny George Institute of Health has found that integrative medicine could have significant pain and anxiety relief benefits for individuals fighting cancer.
For their study, the researchers surveyed electronic medical records from Abbott Northwestern Hospital between 2009 and 2012. They singled out 1,833 cancer patients who had received various types of integrative medicine along with their regular treatment. Before and after these treatments, the patients had been asked to report their pain and anxiety levels.
On their results, lead author Jill Johnson stated, “following integrative medicine interventions, such as medical massage, acupuncture, guided imagery or relaxation response intervention, cancer patients experienced a reduction in pain by an average of 47 percent and anxiety by 56 percent.”
Specifically, lung, trachea and bronchus cancer patients experienced the greatest levels of pain relief from integrative medicine – 51 percent. The largest reduction in anxiety was enjoyed by prostate cancer patients, whose anxiety reportedly decreased by 64 percent.
The study authors wrote, “bodywork and Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies were most effective for reducing pain, while no significant differences among therapies for reducing anxiety were observed.” This inability of the study to distinguish between the effectiveness of different integrative remedies for anxiety could be due to the fact that anxiety and its triggers are very individual, and different remedies are effective for different people.
One ancient practice that can be easily integrated into any wellness plan is mindfulness meditation, which has also been shown to benefit cancer patients. As we recently reported, mindfulness meditation has been linked to longer telomeres on the DNA of patients. Longer telomeres have long been associated with protection from disease. Cancer patients who participated in mindfulness meditation sessions also reported improved mood and less stress.
Regarding how much patients’ pain levels were reduced in the new study, senior author Jeffrey Dusek said, “the size of these reductions is clinically important, because theoretically, these therapies can be as effective as medications, which is the next step of our research.”
If integrative medicine can start replacing potentially dangerous and addictive pain medications in more and more cases – for cancer patients and others – it would be highly exciting, indeed.
-The Alternative Daily