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Alternative therapies are those that can be used along with medical treatment to help the patient feel better. No one should begin an alternative therapy without speaking with his or her physician.


Research has found that patients with chronic pancreatitis who practice yoga 3 times per week can reduce pain, reduce the need for pain medication, and improve quality of life.1,2

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy involves touch and different techniques of stroking or kneading the muscles of the body. It can involve part of the body or be a full-body massage. Massage can be performed through one’s clothing or on the exposed skin. It can be performed in specialized chairs or on a table. Massage therapy should only be performed by a licensed massage therapist.

Massage is used for muscle and bone discomfort; improvement of circulation; reduction of swelling; relaxation; and pain control. It can be used as a complement to other treatments and as a stress reducer. Studies have shown that massage can improve the relaxation response and the general sense of well-being.

Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic touch is a process of energy exchange, in which the practitioner uses the hands as a focus to help the healing process. It is based on the idea that humans are a form of energy. When we are healthy, the energy is flowing freely and is balanced. Disease is believed to reflect an imbalance or disturbance of the energy flow.

Therapeutic touch treatment can vary from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the needs of the individual patient. Exact methods vary among practitioners, but generally they will hold their hands 2 to 4 inches away from the patient’s fully clothed body, moving them from head to toe, and over the front and back. Research has demonstrated that therapeutic touch promotes relaxation and a sense of comfort and well-being. Research has also shown therapeutic touch to be effective in decreasing anxiety and altering the perception of pain.

Physical Exercise

Physical exercise improves the overall functioning of the body and quality of life. Exercise can decrease stress, pain, nausea, fatigue, and depression. Regular exercise affects hormonal balance as well as most of the body systems. Regular participation in physical activity increases the heart rate and maintains an increased heart rate for a period of time.

Depending on your physical condition, and after the advice of your physician, you can begin walking 5 to 10 minutes twice a day, with a goal of increasing activity to 45 minutes at least 3 times a week. It is important that your exercise time be without interruptions. This is time for yourself. If you are unable to walk, there are other ways to exercise (eg, stretching, isometric exercises).


Meditation or relaxation encourages a state of freedom from anxiety, tension, and distress. A state of relaxation can be achieved using different methods, such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, repetitive affirmation, prayer, yoga, or guided/visual imagery. When practiced regularly, meditation can improve sleep, concentration, and the ability to cope with stress. It can help with the management of pain, nausea, and anxiety. You can find free tapes and booklets about meditation at libraries and low-cost materials in stores. You can also choose to attend groups or work groups. Once you have learned the technique, meditation can be practiced at no cost.


Science is taking a closer look at the effects of “mirthful” laughter, that is, laughter that is provoked by happiness, not laughter that is the result of emotions such as embarrassment and anxiety. Whereas it is easy to see how laughter can boost one’s mood, many researchers are finding evidence that mirthful laughter can indeed boost one’s immune system. More research is necessary to elucidate the positive aspects of laughter.


The term acupuncture describes a set of procedures involving stimulation of anatomic points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.

  1. Besselink MG, van Santvoort HC, Buskens E, et al; Dutch Acute Pancreatitis Study Group. Probiotic prophylaxis in predicted severe acute pancreatitis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2008;371(9613):651–659.
  2. van Santvoort HC, Besselink MG, Bakker OJ, et al; Dutch Pancreatitis Study Group. A step-up approach or open necrosectomy for necrotizing pancreatitis. N Engl J Med 2010;362(16):1491–1502.