Researchers from the Allina Health System in Minneapolis, MN and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health conducted a large, retrospective study to determine the use and effectiveness of integrative medicine therapies on pain and anxiety in cancer patients.

Data obtained from electronic medical records identified patients with an oncology diagnosis who were admitted to Allina, a large Midwestern hospital, between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012.

Outcomes examined were change in patient-reported pain and anxiety, rated before and after individual IM treatment sessions, using a numeric scale (0–10).

IM therapies were divided into three broad categories: (1) bodywork, which included craniosacral therapy, medical massage, and reflexology; (2) mind-body and energy therapies (MBE), which was divided into separate mind-body and energy subcategories; and (3) traditional Chinese medicine, which included acupressure, acupuncture, and Korean hand therapy.

Of 10948 hospital admissions over the study period, 1833 (17%) included IM therapy.

Older patients had significantly reduced odds of receiving any IM therapy, and females had 63% higher odds of receiving any IM therapy compared with males.

Moderate, major and extreme illness severity were significantly associated with higher odds of receiving IM therapy, as compared with admissions of minor illness severity.

After receiving IM therapy, patients averaged a 46.9% reduction in pain and a 56.1% reduction in anxiety.

Bodywork and traditional Chinese Medicine therapies were most effective for reducing pain, while no significant differences among therapies for reducing anxiety were observed.

However, there are limitations to this study, as the use of opioid medication was not factored into the results on pain, nor the type of cancer.

With these caveats, the investigators conclude that IM services to oncology inpatients resulted in substantial decreases in pain and anxiety. They suggest that future studies are warranted and should explore the potential synergy of opioid analgesics and IM therapy for pain control.


Citation: Johnson J, Crespin D, Griffin K, Finch M, Dusek J. Effects of Integrative Medicine on Pain and Anxiety Among Oncology Inpatients. Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monograph 2014 (50): pages 330-337. [email protected]