Reduce Pain in Hospitalized Patients
Non-traditional therapies relieve pain among a wide range
of hospitalized patients as much as 50 percent, according to a first-of-a-kind study in
the Journal of Patient Safety.
The study shows that an inpatient integrative medicine program can have a significant
impact on pain in an environment where pain management continues to be a major challenge,
and traditional medications can have negative consequences.
"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.
"We struggle to provide effective pain control while trying to avoid the adverse effects of
opioid medications, such as respiratory depression, nausea, constipation, dizziness
The study included 1,837 cardiovascular, medical, surgical, orthopedics, spine,
rehabilitation, oncology, and women's health patients at Abbott Northwestern between January 1, 2008, and
June 30, 2009. They scored their pain verbally on a zero-to-ten scale before and after treatments.
The treatments included non-pharmaceutical services: mind body therapies to elicit the
relaxation response, acupuncture, acupressure, massage therapy, healing touch, music therapy, aromatherapy, and reflexology.
The study, "The Impact of Integrative Medicine on Pain Management in a Tertiary Care
Hospital" was published March 5 in the Journal of Patient
"Earlier studies narrowly focused on whether specific integrative therapies manage pain in
either cancer or surgical patients," says Jeffery A. Dusek, Ph.D., research director for the George
"Our real-world study broadly shows that these therapies effectively reduce pain by over 50
percent across numerous patient populations. Furthermore, they can be clinically implemented in real time,
across, and under the operational and financial constraints within an acute care hospital."
Dusek says future research will focus on defining appropriate intervention doses, duration
of pain relief, and developing profiles of which patients are most likely to respond to nonpharmacologic
Reductions in total hospitalization costs, medication use and adverse events will be
quantified in future prospective research using the electronic medical record.
"I think we will find that integrative approaches to pain management during the hospital
stay will improve patient satisfaction and outcomes, and we will see cost savings from patients using fewer
drugs and experiencing fewer adverse events," said Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HN-BC, executive director of the
The George Institute's inpatient program employs 21 integrative medicine practitioners,
including six registered nurses, board-certified in their specialty areas such as oncology and
cardiovascular, and also board-certified in holistic nursing;
six licensed Asian medicine practitioners; eight certified massage therapists, with an
emphasis on acute care massage, and one certified music therapist.
Inpatient integrative services provided to patients are based on physician and nursing
referrals, are supported by philanthropy and provided at no additional cost to
Abbott Northwestern Hospital's Penny George Institute for Health and
The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, the nation's largest hospital-based
integrative medicine program, provides a range of services in both the inpatient and outpatient environments,
including such therapies as acupuncture, biofeedback, music therapy, nutrition consultations and
massage therapy. The George Institute also conducts leading-edge research and education programs.