Complementary and alternative therapies (CAT) are popular with many people who have myeloma. CAT treatments may be used to help relieve myeloma symptoms, reduce side effects of myeloma treatments, and improve mood and quality of life. Acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, and dietary supplements are among the CAT modalities that have been studied for effectiveness at relieving symptoms and side effects of myeloma such as nausea and neuropathy (nerve pain).
If you choose to try one or more CAT treatments, it is important to check in with your doctor before beginning a CAT regimen so that they can warn you about any potential interactions and correctly interpret any side effects.
What does it involve?
Nausea is a common side effect of many treatments for myeloma. Acupuncture, acupressure, and aromatherapy help some people with myeloma relieve nausea.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of illnesses. During an acupuncture treatment, you will lie still on a table. A trained acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will insert fine needles into the skin or connective tissue just beneath the skin. The needles are left in the skin for up to 30 minutes. Different regions of the skin are targeted during acupuncture depending on the condition being treated. The practitioner may gently twist or move the needles. Heat or electricity may be applied to the needles. Acupuncture is usually painless.
Acupressure is another TCM practice. During an acupressure treatment, a TCM practitioner will press firmly into your skin with their fingers, elbows, feet, or special tools.
Acupuncture and acupressure are believed to work by balancing and correcting the flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”), throughout the body. Some Western researchers have proposed that acupressure works by stimulating nerves and increasing blood flow.
The theory behind aromatherapy is that different scents can have an effect on the mood or health. Aromatherapy products are easily purchased in many shops or online.
Neuropathy – pain, numbness, or tingling caused by nerve damage – is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Dietary supplements including vitamin E, L-glutamine, the Japanese herb goshajinkigan, and omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in some people with myeloma.
Some people with myeloma report improved mood and lower levels of stress when they incorporate mind-body practices such as meditation or prayer.
A systematic review of studies on complementary treatments for chemotherapy-induced neuropathy found some evidence that vitamin E, L-glutamine, goshajinkigan, and omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent neuropathy from developing.
Some people with myeloma report feeling better after one CAT treatment or another. However, most CAT modalities have not been studied in rigorous clinical trials to establish their safety and effectiveness.
Some herbal and nutritional supplements can cause interactions with myeloma medications. Some CAT treatments may exacerbate other health conditions.
Health insurance may not cover CAT modalities. Some CAT treatments can be expensive.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to an acupuncturist or herbalist.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Integrative Medicine and Complementary Therapies – Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Naturopathic medicine for multiple myeloma – Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Natural products and complementary therapies for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy: A systematic review – Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology
Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Weill Cornell Medicine
Aromatherapy With Essential Oils – National Cancer Institute