Complementary Therapy

We provide patients and their primary carers with a choice of complementary medicine. For patients it is to support their wellbeing, assist in symptom control and aid relaxation alongside the other care provided at the hospice. For carers it is for general wellbeing. Therapies include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Reflexology
  • Reiki


Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique that involves the insertion of fine needles into the skin and underlying tissues at specific points, for therapeutic or preventative purposes. In palliative care, acupuncture is used alongside conventional medical treatment and has an increasing supportive role. At NLH we offer acupuncture for symptom management of:

  • Acute postoperative pain and symptom control.
  • Chronic cancer and cancer treatment related pain.
  • Chemotherapy induced Nausea and vomiting.
  • Cancer-related hot flushes.
  • Anxiety and insomnia.
  • Xerostomia.
  • Chemotherapy induced Peripheral Neuropathy.
  • COPD.


Massage therapy is a systematic form of touch that is either applied directly to the skin or through clothing, generally focusing on soft tissue. Promoting soft tissue changes is important for a person’s physical and emotional symptom management. Many therapists combine different types of massage to relieve stress, anxiety and muscle tension. Your therapist will explain which areas of your body (back, neck, shoulders or legs) you may benefit most from this treatment. A base oil, such as grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil will be used.


Reflexology is a complementary therapy based on the theory that different points and areas on the feet, lower leg and hands correspond with other areas of the body. Gentle pressure is applied to these points by the therapist. Painful areas of your body can be treated through your feet rather than touching the painful site.

The main use of Reflexology at the North London Hospice is to aid relaxation, improve mood, release tension, enhance sleep and generally improve your wellbeing, helping you to cope better with the stresses that life can bring.

Reflexology can be used alongside medical or other complementary treatments but unfortunately it is not suitable for those with phlebitis or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) of the arms and legs


Reiki (ray-key) meaning ‘universal life energy’ in Japanese is a system of natural healing,

The relaxing nature of Reiki can be helpful, especially at difficult times. We can all feel overwhelmed or disconnected. Sometimes we can have a sense of isolation, both emotionally and spiritually. Reiki treatments can bring feelings of peace, centeredness and an ability to cope better with the challenges of life.

Reiki can be beneficial in short term circumstances or it can support people dealing with long-standing conditions. It helps to bring comfort, acceptance and a more positive outlook to those with an illness and their loved ones.

Reiki can be used alongside medical or other complementary treatments.

You will remain fully clothed and can either lie down or be sitting, whichever is more comfortable. The therapist gently places their hands in a series of non-intrusive positions on or near the body. There is no massage or manipulation. The whole person is treated rather than specific areas. Sessions last between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on your needs.

How can I try a complementary therapy?

You can access the complementary therapy service following a referral from your palliative care team.

Someone from the Centre will contact you to make an appointment. Please be aware, due to demand, there is often a waiting list. We will do our best to arrange an appointment to suit you.

What can I expect at my first appointment?

At the beginning of your first session the therapist will discuss with you any health issues you may have. It is important that you mention all your medications and the treatments you are having, as well as any symptoms and side effects, you are experiencing. This is so the therapist can take these into account when planning your complementary therapy session. A session usually lasts 45 to 60 minutes. When you come for your following sessions the therapist will ask about any changes in your symptoms and how you felt after your previous session.

The therapy will only be given with your consent and may be stopped at any time should you wish. 

After your complementary therapy session

Please ensure you drink extra water after each session. Alcohol should be avoided on the day of the therapy. Some people feel relaxed and want to go home and relax further. Some people feel energized. Complementary therapies can put us more in touch with what our bodies need and sometimes people may experience signs of the body starting to re-adjust. This may occasionally show itself in the form of one or two of the following transitory side effects.

  • general tiredness
  • some general aching
  • some increase in output from bladder or bowels
  • increased fluids from nose, throat and chest, similar to symptoms of a cold
  • an existing symptom can get slightly worse before it improves

If these do occur we regard them as a positive sign that the body is beginning to balance itself.  Any side effects usually occur within a day of having had a complementary therapy session and should normally pass within 24 to 48 hours. If you are at all concerned do please contact the Health and Wellbeing team.