Shock Trauma Offers Alternative Therapies for Pain Management

For immediate release: September 05, 2007


Cindy Rivers

[email protected] | 410-328-8778

Sharon Boston

[email protected] | 410-328-8919

Patients Can Have Reiki, Music Therapy and Acupuncture in Addition to Medication

The University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, known for state-of-the-art medicine and high-tech advances in patient care, is now teaming with the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine to offer some ancient, low-tech options to help patients manage their pain. These include Reiki (pronounced “ray-kee”), a Japanese energy therapy, and Chinese acupuncture. In addition, the two centers are collaborating on a study looking into the potential benefits of acupuncture for trauma patients.

“Pain management in trauma patients can be challenging because many of the medications have side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, and the medicines do not always provide adequate pain relief,” explains Rick Dutton, M.D., chief of trauma anesthesiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

He adds, “For years we've known that emotions can affect how patients perceive pain. Trauma patients, in particular, often feel additional stress and loss of control because their injuries come unexpectedly. By offering these complementary therapies, we hope to give patients more options for relaxation and stress relief, which can help with pain control and healing.”

Shock Trauma patients have been offered acupuncture as part of their pain management for more than a year. Trained acupuncturists from the Center for Integrative Medicine have been coming to Shock Trauma several times a week to provide acupuncture to patients who request it. With positive feedback from patients, researchers from Shock Trauma and the Center for Integrative Medicine decided to design a study to see if there was a way to measure acupuncture's potential benefit for these patients.

“Shock Trauma patients who have received acupuncture as part of their pain management have reported significant drops in their pain scores; now we want to see if we can quantify the percentage of that change. We will also investigate the impact of acupuncture on chemicals in the blood that are markers for pain,” says Lixing Lao, M.D., Ph.D., a licensed acupuncturist and director of the Program in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Lao is also a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

As part of the acupuncture research, 30 patients will be randomly selected to receive acupuncture, in addition to their regular care, on three consecutive days following surgery. The researchers will evaluate how much narcotic pain medicine these patients require in the first three days after surgery compared to 30 other patients with similar injuries, randomly selected to receive only conventional care after surgery.

The patients' pain scores and blood samples will also be compared. The investigators plan to track biomarkers for pain and inflammation. These chemical measurements will include inflammatory cytokines, stress hormones such as cortisol and neurotransmitters such as beta-endorphins.

Another complementary therapy offered at Shock Trauma is Reiki, which is part of a field known as energy medicine. According to the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, during the therapy, the Reiki practitioner “places his or her hands on or near the person receiving treatment with intent to transmit ”˜ki,' which is believed to be a life-force energy.” In fact, the word Reiki means “universal life energy.”

“Reiki is a Japanese technique of relaxation that works similarly to acupuncture, in that you are releasing and moving energy,” explains Donna Audia, R.N., a nurse on Shock Trauma's pain management team and a certified Reiki master. “By using Reiki with trauma patients, we are not only helping them to relax, we're also making them active participants in their own healing, and that can be very empowering.”

Reaction from trauma patients has been positive, with most requesting follow-up treatments. In fact, many family members ask to be a part of the Reiki session. A group of volunteers trained in Reiki now visits Shock Trauma regularly. The University of Maryland Medical Center is the only facility in the country offering Reiki to trauma patients, although it has also been used to treat people with cancer and other illnesses.

“We find that Reiki promotes a feeling of calmness and well-being,” explains Audia. “Patients who have received Reiki therapy tell us that they feel more relaxed and that their pain sometimes decreases. In some patients, heart and breathing rates actually slow down.”

Shock Trauma's pain management team has also offered music therapy, where specially trained musicians play for patients. A practitioner from the Center for Integrative Medicine has also brought crystal bowls to play for patients as part of sound therapy.

“In the same way that we know trauma patients benefit from having pastoral care, social workers, counselors and psychiatrists, we see these complementary therapies as another option we can offer our patients to help them in their recovery,” says Dr. Dutton.

“Caring for critically ill patients goes beyond just managing their pain, we also want to help them get back to a normal life,” says Thomas M. Scalea, M.D., physician-in-chief at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. “Acupuncture and Reiki are examples of our commitment to treating the whole person, and we are interested to see how these therapies may benefit trauma patients.” Dr. Scalea is also professor of surgery and director of the Program in Trauma at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Shock Trauma, located at the University of Maryland Medical Center in downtown Baltimore, cares for more than 7,500 injured patients each year. It serves as the Primary Adult Resource Center for Maryland's emergency medical services system, providing the state's highest level of trauma care. The center's full name, the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, honors Dr. R Adams Cowley who pioneered the concept of the “golden hour,” the idea that patients who receive specialized treatment within the first hour after a traumatic injury are more likely to have better outcomes.

The University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, located at Kernan Hospital, is a National Institutes of Health “Center of Excellence” for research in complementary and alternative medicine. It was the first program in a major U.S. academic health center to conduct research as well as offer patients care that integrates complementary therapies.


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