Relaxation techniques refocus your attention on something calming and increase awareness of your body, often bringing your attention to your breathing, muscles, or other body functions to relax and calm them.
How do experts use relaxation techniques?
Both medical groups and integrative experts provide recommendations for relaxation techniques in treating people with cancer. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations. See Integrative Oncology Programs and Expert Guidelines ›
Clinical practice guidelines
A review of supporting evidence for a clinical practice guideline concluded that “for adult patients with insomnia disorder, the modest benefits of relaxation therapy compared to no therapy likely outweigh the potential minimal harms and burdens.”
Yoga can be considered for the management of vasomotor symptoms and sleep disturbance in women with a history of breast cancer noting there is inconsistent evidence regarding its effectiveness.
These guidelines for nausea and vomiting state that relaxation is used to treat nausea and vomiting.
The 2009 guidelines for complementary therapies and botanicals state that mind-body modalities including relaxation are recommended as part of a multidisciplinary approach to reduce anxiety, mood disturbance, chronic pain, and improve quality of life.
Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment › This set of guidelines has been endorsed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).1Lyman GH, Greenlee H et al. Integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment: ASCO endorsement of the SIO clinical practice guideline. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2018 Sep 1;36(25):2647-2655.
The 2017 clinical practice guidelines regarding breast cancer patients provide these statements regarding relaxation:
- Can be considered for reducing anxiety
- Can be considered as an addition to anti-emetics drugs to control nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy
- Recommended for improving mood disturbance and depressive symptoms
- Insufficient evidence for fatigue or improving quality of life
- Guided imagery with progressive muscle relaxation may be offered to patients experiencing general pain from cancer treatment (weak recommendation).
- Insufficient evidence exists to make recommendations for guided imagery with progressive muscle relaxation to treat procedural or surgical pain or pain during palliative care.
- Relaxation therapies may be offered to people with cancer to improve anxiety symptoms during active treatment (moderate evidence)
- Relaxation therapies may be offered to people with cancer to improve depression symptoms during active treatment (weak evidence)
- Inconclusive evidence to make recommendations for or against autogenic training to improve anxiety symptoms in people with cancer regardless of when in the course of care
Published protocols, programs, and approaches
Relaxation techniques are used in programs, approaches, and protocolsa package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and practices into a cohesive design for care from these integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan oncologists, drawing from both scientific research and observations from years or even decades of treating people with cancer.
Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella
Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing. Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts. 2010.
Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Thriving after Cancer: A Five-Step Integrative Plan to Reduce the Risk of Recurrence and Build Lifelong Health. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 2013.
Approaches are described for certain cancer types, or along with certain conventional therapy treatments, or for particular conditions such as insulin resistance.
Keith Block, MD
Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.
The integrative Block Program has recommendations to people who are at different places along the cancer continuum:
- Those who’ve been recently diagnosed
- Those in treatment
- Those who’ve concluded treatment and need to remain vigilant to prevent recurrence
Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, and Alison Jefferies, MEd
Cohen L, Jefferies A. Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six. New York: Viking. 2018.
This book introduces the concept of the Mix of Six, which is identical to six of our 7 Healing Practices ›
Dr. Cohen and Ms. Jefferies explain that while each plays an independent role, the synergy created by all six factors can radically transform health, delay or prevent many cancers, support conventional treatments, and significantly improve quality of life.
Gerald Lemole, MD; Pallav Mehta, MD; and Dwight McKee, MD
Lemole GM, Mehta PK, McKee DL. After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer. New York, New York: Rodale, Inc. 2015.
These doctors present easy-to-incorporate lifestyle changes to help you “turn on” hundreds of genes that fight cancer, and “turn off” the ones that encourage cancer, while recommending lifestyle approaches to address each type.
Gurdev Parmar, ND, FABNO, and Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO
Parmar G, Kaczor T. Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology: A Desktop Guide of Integrative Cancer Care. 1st edition. Medicatrix Holdings Ltd. 2020.
This book provides information on the treatment of 24 cancers, plus the most effective treatments of the most common symptoms affecting cancer patients while they undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery.
David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD
Relaxation techniques, such as tai chi, qigong, or yoga, are established practices in many traditional medicine systems.
Learn about traditional medicine systems and how to find traditional medicine practitioners: Finding Integrative Oncologists and Other Practitioners ›
Other expert assessments
Donald Abrams, MD, and Andrew Weil, MD
This 2014 book by integrative medicine experts and CancerChoices advisors describes a wide variety of complementary interventions to conventional cancer care, including a chapter from the perspective of a cancer patient. Abrams & Weil state that relaxation techniques are used to manage stress among people with cancer as well as reduce some adverse treatment effects.
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