Palliative care is care that provides pain relief, and is used with curative measures, but does not act towards a cure on its own. In other words, it helps make patients more comfortable as they struggle against serious illnesses.
Best practice in medicine suggests that patients undergoing palliative care benefit most from a holistic approach. Holistic approaches include physical, psychological, and spiritual comfort.
As a result, therapies that help patients can be provided not only by doctors and nurses but also by counselors, therapists, massage therapists, or even family and friends of the patient. These actors can provide complementary pain relief therapies, which are able to help reduce pain and improve quality of life, and support the patient as a whole.
1. Music Therapy
Music therapists use music to help patients advance their health goals. Some therapists prescribe this therapy for those looking to relieve pain.
Several studies have shown that listening to music can improve patients’ quality of life. Participants in these studies also showed small physical improvements, like improved respiratory rates, blood pressure, or heart rate.
2. Massage Therapy
Massage has health benefits for everyone. But, it is particularly useful for providing pain relief to palliative care patients.
Massage therapists who work with palliative care patients are trained to relieve pain through light touches rather than deep tissue work. The therapy works by providing comfort and soothing anxiety to patients. It can also help patients who have kinks and knots that come with lying down for most of the day.
Massage therapy is one of the most common complementary therapies. But, it should always be performed by therapists who are knowledgeable about working with these patients. Massage can have contraindications with certain pharmacological therapies. Understanding the patient’s other course of treatment is essential for using massage to heal, not hurt.
3. Pet Therapy
Animal therapy is frequently used in hospital settings to improve quality of life, and provide pain relief. Several studies show that spending time with a cuddly animal can lower your blood pressure, stabilize your heart rate, and reduce anxiety. Additionally, relationships between therapy animals and patients can provide pain relief with a simple cuddle.
Although the benefits of pet therapy are only in the early stages of being understood, it is clear that human-animal interactions help patients undergoing care feel less isolated.
4. Therapeutic Touch
Therapeutic Touch is a practice taught to specialists and many nurses. It is another a way of using your hands to help patients deal with their pain or heal from their disease.
Therapeutic Touch is different to other touch therapies like massage therapy. The basic premise is that humans are open energy systems. This system is constantly interacting with itself, other people, and the environment.
Because illness creates imbalances in this energy, patients need to re-balance their energy to feel relief.
Therapeutic Touch helps do this by using healing energy to interact with a patient’s energy. The practitioner then direct the energy to create stir up relief from symptoms like pain.
5. Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana has been used to provide pain relief and relieve symptoms of disease from thousands of years. As early as 1854, the US Dispensary listed that the plant offered therapeutic effects on patients, and could even relieve inflammation, spasms, and nausea. Some of the most recent standardized controls have found that it has modest but positive effects on helping people with cancer, HIV, capsaicin, MS, and intraocular pressure relive their pain.
Medicinal marijuana is only available for patients residing in a few states via dispensaries. But, this is likely to change soon.
The Institute of Medicine, the American College of Physicians, and the American Medical Association are all in favor of more research dedicated to understanding exactly how it affects patients, and what kind of relief it may bring.
Palliative care is an individualized form of care, and the experience is different for everyone. Creating the holistic approach to this kind of care requires nurturing the patient’s body, mind, and spirit. Pharmacological treatments cannot due this alone.
These 5 alternative therapies have the ability to work in tandem with a patient’s care plan to help relieve pain, and boost their quality of life while undergoing treatment.
Featured photo credit: WRAMTAS via wramtas.org