Background: Optimal inpatient pain management remains a major institutional and therapeutic challenge. Nontoxic, nonpharmacological approaches to treating pain show promise but have not been widely implemented, nor has their effectiveness been evaluated.
Aims: To evaluate the effectiveness of an inpatient integrative medicine consult service for pain management in 6 settings across an entire tertiary care hospital.
Design: Retrospective, observational study.
Setting: Abbott Northwestern Hospital, a 629-bed tertiary-care hospital in Minneapolis, Minn, that is part of Allina Hospitals & Clinics.
Participants: Approximately 1837 patients hospitalized between January 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009.
Measurements: Pretreatment and posttreatment pain scores on a verbal scale of 0 to 10.
Results: Most patients (66%) had never previously received integrative services. Provision of integrative services had immediate and beneficial effects on pain scores. The average reduction in pain scores was 1.9 points (on a 10-point scale), and the average percentage in pain reduction was approximately 55%.
Conclusions: The formal provision of inpatient integrative medicine had a significant impact on pain scores for hospitalized patients, reducing self-reported pain by more than 50%, without placing patients at increased risk of adverse effects. This was true in all 6 settings. Age, previous use of complementary therapies, and sex did not affect results. Future research must define the appropriate dose of the intervention, the duration of the relief, and the identification of patients most likely to respond to these nonpharmacological treatments. Additionally, future research using the electronic health record will allow quantification of any reduction in total costs, pain medication usage, and adverse events.