Category Archives: depression

Strength and Serenity for Women With Cancer

In what appears to be a perfect union between Western academic medicine and complementary/alternative treatment, a Harvard Medical School oncologist is studying the use of acupuncture to help alleviate the symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment for women. Cancer specialist and surgeon Annekathryn Goodman, MD has added acupuncture certification to her many other credentials and now offers this complementary treatment to her patients undergoing cancer treatment at the Vincent Women’s Care Division of Massachusetts General Hospital.

“My personal vision is to create a center for women with cancer that I am calling ‘Strength and Serenity,’ says Dr. Goodman. “My goal is to use complementary modalities, particularly acupuncture, to alleviate the symptoms and side effects of cancer and its treatment that we have difficulty managing with Western medicine.” She has found the treatment helpful for alleviating neuropathy—pain or burning or numbness in hands and feet, as well as nausea from chemotherapy or radiation or from the cancer itself. “Sometimes I treat women before the chemo, which seems to lessen their suffering,” she says. “Acupuncture also seems to help people who are done with their therapy but still have side effects such as fatigue, depression and anxiety as well as neuropathy. So many people are on antidepressants to help them with their stress. Acupuncture seems to help alleviate symptoms.”

Since 2004, Dr. Goodman has been transforming a sterile  Mass General exam room into a tranquil environment for hour-long sessions of acupuncture, which uses tiny needles to stimulate energy or “qi” (pronounced “chi”) points on the body, based on 5,000-year-old methods from Traditional Chinese Medicine. She uses heat lamps to warm up the needles, replaces harsh fluorescent lights with softly glowing lamps, plays soothing music and adds bamboo shoots and fabrics as decoration. “My focus is to balance the patient’s energy, or life force,” says Dr. Goodman, “This treats the ‘root’ of the problem, which then helps to alleviate the ‘branch’ symptom, whether it is constipation, nausea, headache or depression.” (Please see How Do We Heal for more details of acupuncture.)

In a recent research collaboration among the Mass General Vincent Women’s Care Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Dana Farber Cancer Center, acupuncture was found to create a modest improvement in white blood cell counts among women undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer. (Cancer treatment tends to lower white blood cell counts, which compromises the immune system.) In a review of worldwide data about the use of acupuncture to alleviate side effects of cancer treatment, Dr. Goodman found that the evidence in support of acupuncture was “helpful but the data was mixed.” “It is hard to unify existing data in a scientific way,” she says. “But there is certainly interest around the world in studying the use of acupuncture to alleviate the suffering of cancer patients.” For her part, she hopes to continue the work of the Strength and Serenity Center to conduct education, research and clinical care not only about acupuncture, but also about other forms of complementary care for women with cancer.

Leave a comment

Filed under acupuncture, Cancer, depression, Healing, Health, Stories of Hope

Alexander Technique for Depression

This is the beginning of an interesting post about the Alexander Technique as a treatment for depression and mental illness: “In our culture today the connection between physical and emotional problems is gaining currency. Surprisingly, the best answer to coping with the stresses of life is by using a hands-on approach that straightens the body. This technique can help in balancing moods, changing behavioural patterns and managing life’s challenges.”

I have studied the Alexander Technique for years and found it useful for body alignment and functioning without pain. The beneficial effect on depression and psychological problems is news to me, but I can certainly believe it. Here is a link to the post. And here is a link for more information about the Technique.

3 Comments

Filed under Alexander Technique, depression, mental health

Exercise as Medicine for Depression

Today’s Boston Globe cites several studies demonstrating the effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of depression and other mental health problems. Dr. James A. Blumenthal–a professor of medical psychology at Duke University and the principal investigator of several of these studies–is quoted in the Globe as saying, “There is growing evidence that exercise may be comparable to other established treatments such as antidepressant medications.” He also found that depressed patients who were helped by exercise were less likely to relapse after 10 months than those helped by antidepressants, according to the article. In consultation with your doctor, experts cited in the Globe suggest 20-40 minutes of exercise, including weightlifting and aerobics, 3 times a week, at a level that “makes you break a sweat,” for treatment of depression, anxiety, ADHD, addiction, stress, and aggression.

We have already seen evidence that exercise can help prevent chronic disease and hospitals around the country now have “boot camp” programs for chronic back pain. Now, there is evidence that exercise is also “medicine for the brain,” in the words of Cambridge psychiatrist and author, John Ratey, MD. So let’s get out and move our bodies! Here is the link to the article.

5 Comments

Filed under depression, Exercise, Healing, mental health

Cold Showers and Depression

News from The Discovery Channel: “Treatments for depression range from medicines that can come with scary side effects to electric shock therapy, but a new paper suggests a simple cold shower might sometimes cure, and even prevent, the debilitating mood disorder.” Now I understand why I always feel so uplifted and, well, happy, after my morning cold shower gush.  Continue reading

41 Comments

Filed under cold shower health benefits, depression, Healing, Water