Busting The Myths About Complementary Therapies

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You know when you really feel that some sort of pampering or ‘feel good’ treatment is exactly what you need to help you feel more like yourself?

But wait!  Hold on, you can’t because you’ve heard one of these myths that will supposedly prevent you from having a treatment:Stop!

  1.  You are being treated for cancer
  2. You are in the early stages of pregnancy
  3. You are on medication or have high blood pressure
  4. You are suffering with the flu or a contagious virus
  5. You are coming to the end of a sickness bug

This is not a comprehensive list but these are the questions we are most often asked in relation to whether it is safe to have a treatment.

You might have heard that you actually aren’t allowed to have any kind of treatment so any therapist you approach would just turn you down.  And that’s not a nice feeling when you’re already not feeling your best.

So you don’t bother and feel even worse that whatever the problem is prevents you from having something that might help you to feel a little bit better.

However, what if you were told that only two of the health concerns or conditions from that lost would actually prevent you from having that lovely relaxing treatment, and all the others could potentially be incorporated into a safe and effective treat for you?

Which ones are they?

  1. You have flu or a nasty virus that is making you feel quite poorly.
  2. You are coming to the end of a sickness bug.

There are a couple of reasons as to why:

If you are feverish, having a treatment may only make you feel worse.  It could raise your temperature further, stimulate the body’s natural healing response and encourage the body to get rid of it, thus bringing it out.  A good thing in the long run but not pleasant when you end up feeling so much worse first!

The second reason is – you are still contagious!  So whatever virus or bug you have has a high chance of being spread to your therapist and potential other clients using the same therapy centre.  You are FAR better staying at home and letting your body rest and recover naturally until you are past the contagious stage.  At which point complementary therapies are a great way to help during convalescence!

So let’s address the others:

  1. You are unable to have treatments if you have cancer and/or are undergoing treatment for it.  Not true!

Having spent eight years as a volunteer therapist in a local hospice where there was a dedicated complementary therapies team and the hospice doctors encouraged people to have suitable therapies that might help them at whatever stage of their illness, I’ve witnessed the benefits experienced at the hands of an amazing team of therapists.  All holistic and complementary therapies treat YOU and NOT your illness.  Your medical condition isn’t being treated, that is in the hands of medically trained professionals; the aim will always be you and your wellbeing, comfort and emotional and physical relaxation.

healing hands

People used to think that massage or reflexology could spread cancer by stimulating the lymphatic system.  Thankfully, medical science and understanding has moved on and this is now rarely thought.

Admittedly, a specific lymphatic drainage massage would not be advised if you have been diagnosed with cancer and are being treated for it but generally speaking, a massage does not stimulate your lymphatic system any more than a hot bath or a brisk walk would.  And it’s not commonly heard of to avoid both of those things…

The Royal Marsden Hospital, Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Care all now provide information about using complementary therapies during cancer treatment and the Christie Hospital in Manchester has an award-winning complementary therapy service that supports people through all stages of their cancer journey.

  • You cannot have a treatment before the twelfth week of pregnancy.  Not true!

Although it is always advisable to have your treatments with a therapist who has specific training and experience in working during pregnancy.

Reflexology may do many things but cause a miscarriage is not one of them.  Therapies work WITH your body, not against it.  They are there to nurture and support.  Miscarriages happen for many reasons and none of them are anybody’s fault.  If a pregnancy is viable then nothing will change that and it is exactly the same for when it’s not.

But again, if in doubt, check with your midwife.  It’s usually a good idea to make her aware of any therapies you are using during your pregnancy too.

Many pregnancy massage courses that teach any kind of massage during the first trimester is not allowed.  This is thought to be because of the higher risk of miscarriage in the first three months, therefore minimising any chance of blame.  However, most pregnancy massage experts in the USA believe it to be a viable option as long as there are no medical issues that may make it unsafe.  Abdominal massage during the first trimester should be limited but a gentle, reassuring, relaxing massage can only be good!  It is ultimately down to whatever you feel most comfortable doing.

  • You cannot have treatment if you are on medication, or have high blood pressure.  Not true!

Although it may be a consideration, long-term studies have shown that regular massage can decrease diastolic and systolic blood pressure.  If your high blood pressure is unstable ten asking for GP permission can be a good idea.  But a massage delivered in a safe and suitable way, and possibly using oils indicated as being hypotensive (lowering blood pressure) may be helpful.

We are definitely NOT saying that you or your chosen therapist should be ‘gung-ho’ about going ahead and having a treatment regardless – it is always important to have an appropriate treatment where care is given in terms of working with any medical conditions or concerns you may have.  And if in doubt, ask your GP!

But you don’t have to think that treatments are forbidden, or that you don’t even want to run the risk of asking in case you are rejected, it is sometimes just a case of seeking medical advice or GP permission if you have any concerns.  As any therapist should recommend you do if there is ever any doubt.   You should be safe in their hands.


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