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Health & Balance

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Alternative Medicine Checks in to the Hospital


"Our major focus is in cancer treatment and cancer prevention, and we hold weekly meditation groups for cancer patients and their families," says Gaynor, the author of several books including "Sounds of Healing: A Physician Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice, and Music."

Meditation using sound and music helps patients feel better, he says. "Sound and music are two of the most overlooked healing modalities ever," Gaynor tells WebMD. "All systems in the body are profoundly affected."

For example, music and sound can lower heart rate, blood pressure levels, and levels of stress hormones.

In one study, heart patients who listened to 15 minutes of classical music had lower complication rates than those who didn't listen to classical music, he says.

Gaynor was recently appointed medical director of the Cornell Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine -- which is slated to open on September 1, 2000. "The goal of this new center is to incorporate guided imagery, nutrition, music, acupuncture, acupressure, and massage into traditional care and to examine how this works on a basic science level," he says.

Gaynor's advice to patients who are interested in complementary medicine is to "find a physician who really practices alternative medicine. He or she can help you identify the core issues and traumas that affect illness and make a recommendation as to what type of alternative therapy may best help you."

  • Alternative therapies that help patients to relax are becoming common additions to traditional cancer treatment. Initial studies suggest massage therapy, acupuncture, or guided imagery helped patients relax and deal with pain after receiving standard open-heart surgery as well.
  • A therapist says that sound and music also may help patients relax.
  • The researcher says patients interested in incorporating these complementary therapies into their treatment should find a physician who practices alternative medicine and ask for advice about which treatments might be helpful to them.

Originally published May 31, 2000.
Updated on Feb. 27, 2002.

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