Heart failure

Complementary therapies

At present the most successful way of treating heart failure is by medication, though some studies have suggested that transcendental meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques help to reduce blood pressure and increase people's sense of well-being. Research is also being carried out into the possible benefits of tai chi. NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) issued guidelines in June 2006 on the treatment of high blood pressure that stated that relaxation therapies such as stress management, meditation, cognitive therapies, muscle relaxation and biofeedback, can have a modest effect on reducing blood pressure and people, “may wish to pursue these as part of their treatment”.

Though many people thought that learning to relax and concentrating on things that took them out of themselves would be beneficial, few had actively tried new things and most said that they preferred to talk to their family or their doctors.


Feels she does not need alternative therapies because she gets her support from medical staff and...

View full profile
Age at interview: 66
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 65
I've never tried alternative therapies at all. I decided this is quite enough and I didn't feel that it was a suitable thing. Maybe it is for some people, it's not for me. I'm taking the medication, I've had two lots of surgery, there's a third, there's an option for later on. I'm watching my diet, I'm doing what exercises I can I feel I'm coping better mentally now, so that's quite enough to be on board, I don't feel I need to try anything else. I've got people who listen to me, people who help me medically as well, that's enough. 
Most people said they had not tried complementary medication such as herbal remedies in case they might interfere with their usual medicines. Others speculated that their doctors would not like them to 'experiment' with other remedies. A woman who had tried valerian to help her sleep found that it interfered with warfarin and said she always checked with her chemist before buying anything.

Someone who had tried homoeopathy and cranial osteopathy said that though they would probably work for other people, they had not worked for her. She said that she started feeling better once doctors had got her medication right. A man who tried Reiki healing said that it gave him a set time outside his usual routine when he could relax and reflect.


She tried various complementary practices - homoeopathy and osteopathy - but found they didn't...

View full profile
Age at interview: 53
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 49
Yes, my sister is very much into homoeopathy. And she asks me to try it, and I did try it and... it does help some people, it didn't help me. And I tried lots of things before I got onto the right dose of medicine but no, nothing helped me not like the doctor's tablets, I don't think anything does, not for a heart. 

Did your sister try any particular treatment or any particular pills or?

Yeah I forget what they were now. But I know homoeopathy is, is very good and it does suit some people and I also went to an osteopath..a cranial osteopath I think they're called. Yeah, and I had massage and it was very nice but it still didn't do me any good. I still think that it's just the doctor's tablet's that have made me feel better. But some people it might, I'm not saying it's no good you know. And my sister gave me aromatherapy and reflexology as well because she can do all that, and it's very nice having it done, but no just the doctor's tablets make me better. 

Text only
Read below

He describes Reiki healing which helped him to relax and reflect.

View full profile
Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
The person I went to see was actually a Reiki master as well, a Reiki healer [pause] and she did one Reiki exercise on me, mainly where I laid down and put the hands over the face and you can feel the warmth. Whether that's this magical transference from A to B or the fact that you've got a small amount of air between A and B and of course it heats up between the two, body heat, is what I think it is. 

You still feel that, but for me it doesn't matter where you think necessarily the energy comes from, whether it's a mystical being or whether it's from somewhere you can see, you can understand, it's about feeling relaxed and can you think deep and get in a relaxed state and I can. I've always been able to do that before, so I was okay with that, but it didn't, wasn't as if oh this was now hocus pocus, it makes no difference, it was just another technique, somebody else being able to do it to you. Just like massages, those sort of things can deeply relax you. 

And, and some of the sessions were okay in that it, I think that what was good about it was it was a set time to think, time out of here if you will, just to sit and perhaps just chat a little bit and then just reflect. So that was probably the biggest benefit. There wasn't anything that I came away thinking, 'Oh, I'm glad I did that because now I feel better about this', I don't think there was anything so startling about what came out of it.

Several people talked about how their religious faith helped their recovery and said they put themselves in God's hands. Others said they prayed regularly and attended places of worship, and one man was pleased to have led a service and preached at his local church. A woman who sees her priest regularly for home communion said she also valued being able to talk to him because he was such a good listener.

Says he prays and puts himself and his health in God's hands.

View full profile
Age at interview: 46
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 45
Well, we're all religious in a way and when things happen we all call his name no matter, I don't care who you think you are, right. Right, you're still going to say 'Oh My God,' right? So if you don't believe in him, why call his name? So he is up there, right. Now, it's not so much that I was brought up in a Christian background, obviously right, but obviously as you go through life you learn different things, right. And you know... I put myself in his hands at the end of the day. Like I said, if I was going to through an operation I have to trust in him and he's going to use the doctors as an instrument and help them to help me, you know what I mean? So that's all I could do, all I could wish for, just pray to him saying, 'I hope it goes through.' If it does, it does, I'll see you on the other side sort of thing!  And that's it basically but it's not so much, I have my beliefs, everybody has beliefs and everybody interprets their beliefs differently, you know what I mean? So, I'm not saying follow me or do this but we've all got beliefs you know.

Many activities were said to be therapeutic including keeping a reflective diary, painting, yoga and meditation (see 'Sports, hobbies and activities'). Others said they had tried listening to relaxation tapes and several people were thinking about joining relaxation and yoga classes. A woman who had been bereaved said that looking after herself helped her look and feel better and was helping to restore her self-confidence.media 30463}There were a number of ways that people used to unwind or overcome some of the strain of heart failure, which included watching television and old films. Someone else said his own mantra ('it really doesn't matter') whenever he found himself stressed or upset (see 'Stress and heart failure').

Last reviewed April 2016.
Last updated March 2012.

Previous Page
Next Page