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.

Society for Integrative Oncology

Two guidelines evaluate relaxation techniques among people with cancer.

Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology: complementary therapies and botanicals ›

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

Society for Integrative Oncology and American Society of Clinical Oncology

Three guidelines make recommendations on the use of relaxation techniques among people with cancer.

Integrative Medicine for Pain Management in Oncology: Society for Integrative Oncology—ASCO Guideline ›


  • 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.

Integrative oncology care of symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults with cancer: Society for Integrative Oncology–ASCO Guideline ›

  • 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

Management of Fatigue in Adult Survivors of Cancer: ASCO–Society for Integrative Oncology Guideline Update ›

During cancer treatment: no recommendation for or against progressive muscle relaxation to reduce the severity of cancer-related fatigue

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

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

Servan-Schreiber D. Anticancer: A New Way of Life. New York: Penguin Books. 2009.

This book provides tips on how people living with cancer can fight it and how healthy people can prevent it.


Traditional medicine

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.

Keep reading about relaxation techniques


Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher


Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: May 29, 2024

Last full literature review: October 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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