A new study shows complementary therapies—including massage therapy—relieve pain as much as 50 percent among a wide range of hospitalized patients.

The study shows that an inpatient integrative medicine program—one that includes complementary and alternative medicine alongside traditional Western medical approaches—can significantly address pain.

“Roughly 80 percent of patients report moderate to severe pain levels after surgery,” says Gregory Plotnikoff, M.D., one of the study’s authors and medical director of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, in a press release from Allina Hospitals & Clinics. “We struggle to provide effective pain control while trying to avoid the adverse effects of opioid medications, such as respiratory depression, nausea, constipation, dizziness and falls.”

The study included 1,837 cardiovascular, medical, surgical, orthopedics, spine, rehabilitation, oncology, and women’s health patients at Abbott Northwestern between Jan. 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009. The patients scored their pain verbally on a 0-10 scale before and after treatments.

The treatments included:

• massage therapy
• acupuncture
• acupressure
• healing touch
• music therapy
• aromatherapy
• reflexology
• mind body therapies to elicit the relaxation response

The study, “The Impact of Integrative Medicine on Pain Management in a Tertiary Care Hospital” was published March 5 in the Journal of Patient Safety.

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