Yoga, tai chi may help patients manage cancer pain symptoms

While traditional medications for chronic pain are the first order of treatment for individuals with serious illnesses, increasing numbers of doctors see alternative medicine therapies as a valid complementary approach.

In fact, due to the addictive nature of powerful painkillers like morphine, and their numerous side effects, doctors and researchers have been trying for decades to find ways to manage pain without injections or drugs, and the work is ongoing.

However, there are already some indications that alternative medical techniques that are typically used to relax and stay in shape may also have benefits for individuals recovering from cancer.

Recently, Joseph Nowinski, author and clinical psychologist, reported on the website of the Huffington Post on the results of a review conducted at the Department of Psychology at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada. The review looked at 10 different studies and found that yoga has proved useful as an adjunctive pain therapy, mainly in breast cancer patients.

The technique apparently relieved some of their pain, improved mood and boosted their overall quality of life.

Studies on tai chi - another low-impact, weight-bearing exercise regimen with Eastern roots - found similar results.

Part of the reason for these beneficial effects may stem from the fact that practicing yoga, tai chi or meditation has been shown to lower the levels of inflammation markers in the blood, and cancer pain stems primarily from inflammation around the site of the tumor.

However, Nowinski also noted that these ancient techniques are powerful stress relievers, which can help alleviate some of the psychological challenges experienced by cancer patients that often go unaddressed as doctors focus on physical well-being.

For the same reason, these alternative approaches may be of interest to patients' caregivers, who often share the emotional and psychological burden of this disease.