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J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Feb;20(2):98-102. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0306. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

Integrative care therapies and pain in hospitalized children and adolescents: a retrospective database review.

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1 Department of Family and Community Medicine, Division of Integrative Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine , Cincinnati, OH.



Complementary or integrative care therapies are promising adjunctive approaches to pain management for pediatric inpatients that are currently underused and understudied. The purpose of this study was to examine the potential benefits of integrative care therapies delivered to hospitalized children and adolescents at a large Midwestern academic pediatric medical center over a 1-year period.


A retrospective chart review of an inpatient clinical database maintained by integrative care therapists over a 1-year period was used for the current study. Pre/post pain and relaxation scores associated with the delivery of inpatient integrative care therapies (primarily massage therapy and healing touch) were examined.


Five-hundred nineteen hospitalized children and adolescents were treated by integrative care therapists for primarily pain or anxiety needs. Patients had a mean age of 10.2 years (standard deviation, 7.0), 224 were female (43%), 383 were white (74%), and most (393 [77%]) received massage therapy. Mean pain and relaxation scores decreased significantly from pre- to post-therapy across all demographic and clinical subgroups (p≤.001).


Although integrative care therapies are increasingly requested and offered in children's hospitals, provision of these approaches is driven primarily by consumer demand rather than evidence-informed practice. Future controlled studies should examine the incremental effects of integrative care therapies as an adjunct to conventional treatment, assess how these therapies work mechanistically, and determine whether they improve outcomes, such as pain and cost, for hospitalized children and adolescents.

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