Study Shows Integrative Medicine Can Relieve Pain and Anxiety for Cancer Inpatients

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Researchers at The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis have found that integrative medicine therapies can decrease pain and anxiety for hospitalized cancer patients. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.1

“Following integrative medicine interventions, such as medical massage, acupuncture, guided imagery, or relaxation response intervention, cancer patients experienced a reduction in pain by an average of 47% and anxiety by 56%,” said Jill Johnson, PhD, MPH, Senior Scientific Advisor.

Clinically Important Improvements

“The overall goal of this research is to determine how integrative services can be used with or instead of narcotic medications to control pain,” Dr. Johnson said.

Researchers looked at electronic medical records from admissions at Abbott Northwestern Hospital between July 1, 2009, and December 31, 2012. From more than 10,000 admissions, researchers identified 1,833 in which cancer patients received integrative medicine services.

Patients were asked to report their pain and anxiety before and just after the integrative medicine intervention, which averaged 30 minutes in duration.

Patients being treated for lung, bronchus, and trachea cancers showed the largest percentage decrease in pain (51%). Patients with prostate cancer reported the largest percentage decrease in anxiety (64%).

“The size of these reductions is clinically important, because theoretically, these therapies can be as effective as medications, which is the next step of our research,” said Jeffery Dusek, PhD, Research Director for the Penny George Institute. ■

Disclaimer: The Penny George Institute receives funding from the National Center of Alternative and Complementary Medicine of the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of integrative therapies on pain over many hours as well as over the course of a patient’s entire hospital stay. Funding for the study was provided by the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, George Family Foundation, the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation, and the American Massage Therapy Association.


1. Johnson JR, Crespin DJ, Griffin KH, et al: Effects of integrative medicine on pain and anxiety among oncology inpatients. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr 50:330-337, 2014.