Cancer: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (cont.)

Muscle Tension and Release

Lie down in a quiet room. Take a slow, deep breath. As you breathe in, tense a particular muscle or group of muscles. For example, you can squeeze your eyes shut, frown, clench your teeth, make a fist, or stiffen your arms or legs. Hold your breath and keep your muscles tense for a second or two. Then breathe out, release the tension, and let your body relax completely. Repeat the process with another muscle or muscle group. You also can try a variation of this method, called "progressive relaxation." Start with the toes of one foot and, working upward, progressively tense and relax all the muscles of one leg. Next, do the same with the other leg. Then tense and relax the rest of the muscle groups in your body, including those in your scalp. Remember to hold your breath while tensing your muscles and to breathe out when releasing the tension.

Physical Exercise

Exercise can help lessen pain, strengthen weak muscles, restore balance, and decrease depression and fatigue. After getting approval from your doctor, you may want to begin by walking 5-10 minutes twice a day and later increasing your activity.

Rhythmic Breathing

Get in a comfortable position and relax all your muscles. If you keep your eyes open, focus on a distant object. If you close your eyes, imagine a peaceful scene or simply clear your mind and focus on your breathing.

Breathe in and out slowly and comfortably through your nose. If you like, you can keep the rhythm steady by saying to yourself, "In, one two; out, one two." Feel yourself relax and go limp each time you breathe out.

You can do this technique for just a few seconds or for up to 10 minutes. End your rhythmic breathing by counting slowly and silently to three.


Visualization is similar to imagery. With visualization, you create an inner picture that represents your fight against cancer. Some people getting chemotherapy use images of rockets blasting away their cancer cells or of knights in armor battling their cancer cells. Others create an image of their white blood cells or their drugs attacking the cancer cells.


All you need is a quiet, comfortable place and some time each day to practice breathing, stretching, and meditation. To learn about yoga you may want to take a class and review books, audiotapes, or videotapes on yoga . Ask your social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist about yoga classes in your area

For more information about cancer therapy side effects, and coping with them, please read the "Chemotherapy and Cancer Treatment, Coping with Side Effects" and the Chemotherapy articles.

SOURCE: National Cancer Institute (

Last Editorial Review: 8/8/2006

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