Advice for families and caregivers

Relaxation techniques, regularly practiced, have been shown to strengthen the body’s immune system, help control blood pressure, improve the body’s ability to manage glucose, reduce stress, and diminish pain.

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General information

Many relaxation techniques are available, and if your parent is willing to try relaxation therapy, he or she can select the one that feels most compatible. Some of the various techniques include:

  • Tensing each muscle in the body, one by one, then relaxing them, one by one (or just focusing on and then relaxing each muscle, in sequence, without first tensing it)
  • Slow, rhythmic breathing combined with images of beautiful, peaceful places
  • Meditation, focusing on a word, image or concept
  • Prayer
  • Biofeedback plus relaxation
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage

Back to topRelaxation and pain

Q: In addition to pain medication, what else can my parent do to cope?

A: Besides getting adequate pain medication, and taking it as prescribed, many patients find that alternative treatments help. Here are some options:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Acupuncture

Q: My parent doesn’t want to try relaxation techniques. How can I convince her?

A: All you can do is assemble information about the various options for your parent. Not everyone is comfortable with relaxation techniques, and your parent has to do what feels right to him or her. For more information and suggestions on how to try the different relaxation techniques, go to the National Cancer Institute website at to topRelaxation and chemotherapy

Q: How can I help my parent with her anxiety while undergoing chemotherapy?
 You can talk with your parent about the various relaxation techniques (see the top of this page) and encourage her to try one on a regular basis. Many cancer patients have found these techniques enormously helpful in reducing stress and offering some sense of control over their body as they achieve a relaxation response. Also, some cancer patients find that relaxation techniques help them manage their nausea and improve their ability to sleep.Back to topRelaxation and breathing problems

Q: How can I help my parent with anxiety about breathing problems?

A: Here are some suggestions:

  • Anti-anxiety medication, which must be prescribed by a physician, can very helpful in reducing your parent’s anxiety level and can greatly enhance his or her sense of well-being.
  • In addition, your parent might consider trying one of the many relaxation techniques available (see the top of this page). Anxiety causes tightening of muscles, while relaxation can relax the muscles, which in some cases can widen respiratory passages, decrease chest pain, and counter anxiety while strengthening the immune system.

Back to topRelaxation and arthritis

Q: What can I do to help my parent cope with pain from arthritis?

A: People who are in pain experience both physical and emotional stress, and stress causes muscles to tighten, which then increases pain. So, in addition to taking whatever pain medication is recommended by a physician, activities that relax can also help relieve pain.

Relaxation techniques are most helpful if used before the pain becomes too severe. A wide variety of activities can produce relaxation (see the top of this page), and your parent should…

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