Energy-based therapies

Energy-based therapies aim to improve your physical and emotional health using little, if any, physical contact.

Energy-based therapies include:

  • Shiatsu and acupressure – types of massage. The therapist applies gentle pressure, gently stretches or holds areas of the body.
  • Reflexology – a type of hand and foot massage. The therapist applies gentle pressure to specific points on the feet or hands.
  • Therapeutic touch – the practitioner applies gentle pressure to the body or works just above the surface.

There is no medical evidence that energy-based therapies will treat symptoms, but you may still find them relaxing and calming.

What are energy-based therapies?

Energy-based therapies are based on the theory that everyone has a special type of energy that can be worked on for health benefits.

There is no medical evidence that this type of energy exists or that energy-based therapies have any effect on the cancer. Some may be used to try to treat symptoms, but there is no medical evidence that they help. Their most common effects are that some people find them relaxing and calming.

Some energy-based therapies rely on little, if any, physical contact for their effects. Others involve touch or body movements.

Energy-based therapies are available in some hospitals. If you are looking for these therapies somewhere other than in hospital, it is important to check that the therapist or practitioner is trained, registered and insured.

Shiatsu and acupressure

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage. Acupressure is very similar as therapists use their hands or elbows to apply pressure to certain areas of the body. Therapists believe that health depends on the balanced flow of energy through certain channels in the body. Their theory is that placing pressure on these channels helps restore energy balance. They may also gently stretch or hold areas of the body to reduce stiffness and soreness.

A recent study showed that acupressure was able to reduce fatigue in women who had been treated for breast cancer. However there is very little medical evidence to show that shiatsu or acupressure helps with any other symptoms. But many people still find it a relaxing or uplifting experience.

As with other types of massage, it is important to take some precautions.


Reflexology is a form of foot or hand massage similar to acupressure. Reflexologists believe different areas on the feet or hands represent, and are connected to, different parts of the body.

They apply gentle pressure to specific points on the feet or hands. The aim is to help you feel more relaxed.

Reflexology has been used to try to improve symptoms related to cancer or its treatment, such as feeling sick (nausea) and pain. There is no evidence to prove that it is effective when used in this way. But some evidence shows that reflexology can help people feel more relaxed and many people use it to help ease stress and anxiety.

Therapeutic touch

In therapeutic touch, the therapist uses touch or works just above the surface of the body. They believe this affects an energy field surrounding each person and they can act as a channel for the healing energy.

There is no medical evidence to show it helps with symptoms or side effects. Some people feel that therapeutic touch gives them valuable support. When it is used in a religious or spiritual way, it is called spiritual or faith healing.

Reiki is another type of therapeutic touch developed in Japan. You sit or lie down and the therapist gently places their hands on or just above your body. They use a sequence of positions that cover most of the body. You don’t need to remove any clothing. Each position is held for about two to five minutes or until the therapist feels the flow of energy has slowed or stopped.

It was a set time to think, for time out. Just to sit and perhaps chat a little bit, and then just reflect. That was probably the biggest benefit.