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Complementary Therapies

Doctor Q&A

Administrative Director of Spiritual Wellness at Shawnee Mission Health

Imagine two people are diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Both have a similar goal of finding relief from the condition. One person might take an effective, but more traditional approach and stick with medication to help treat the disease. The other person might opt for a more complete approach, combining medication and complementary therapy, such as meditation, which can help reduce stress and the frequency of flare- ups.

Complementary therapies allow for whole-person care and give the body the strength it needs to heal properly. Treatment of each facet of your being interrelates for your complete healing.

Complementary vs alternative therapies

Currently, the National Institutes of Health recognizes more than 1,800 complementary therapies ranging from support groups to art therapy to meditation. However, people often confuse complementary therapy with alternative therapy. Here’s how the two differ:

  • Complementary therapies are noninvasive, evidence-based, and can be safely used with conventional medicine. For example, a patient may receive chemotherapy and music therapy to help treat breast cancer.
  • Alternative therapies are used in place of conventional medicine. For example, a patient with stomach cancer may choose to go on a special diet to help manage the disease instead of undergoing chemotherapy.

Types of complementary therapy

  • Music Therapy – Music therapy provides a variety of treatments, including musical acupuncture, musical biofeedback, live music in your patient room, interactive music therapy and vibro-acoustic music chairs. These treatments help reduce stress, relieve pain and provide additional comfort and relaxation.
  • Essential Oils – Distilled from plants, essential oils are used for relaxation and to help relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and pain. These oils are usually inhaled or massaged into the body. Because essential oils are natural, they don’t produce the side effects that can result from some drugs.
  • Guided Imagery – Using this technique, you can train your body to be more relaxed and in control of your emotions during stressful situations. For example, prior to a knee or hip replacement surgery at Shawnee Mission Health, patients are provided with a pre-surgery CD to help them prepare for the upcoming procedure. Using this CD, you might imagine coming to the hospital; having physicians, nurses and staff welcome you and provide you with everything you need; going through the pre-surgery process; and waking up after a successful procedure. Research shows this type of therapy can help patients experience less pain, fewer complications, and a faster recovery.
  • Mindfulness – Mindfulness involves focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This type of therapy helps clear the mind and body of troubling anxiety and stress so it can devote its energy and resources to healing. Using mindful breathing can help your body become more relaxed and can be used to treat chronic pain, insomnia and other discomforts experienced by patients.
  • Massage Therapy – A relaxing massage can do wonders in preventing and treating injuries and other medical conditions.
  • Pet Therapy – At Shawnee Mission Health (SMH), the Delta Society Mo-Kan Pet Partners bring specially-trained pets to visit patients and help create a home-like environment. Interacting with animals has been linked with improved psychological and physical wellbeing.
  • Pastoral Care – When facing illness, spiritual care can help you heal faster both physically and emotionally. At SMH, chaplains are available to listen, pray, and create a spiritually rich environment that’s respectful of your faith and beliefs.

To learn more about these and other complementary therapies at Shawnee Mission Health, call the ASK-A-NURSE Resource Center at 913-676-7777.