Alternative Medicine Checks in to the Hospital
As alternative medicine becomes more and more mainstream, patients including
Jan Alcott and Carroll Clark are now being offered massages, acupuncture, and
other complementary therapy along with their standard medical treatment. And
the results are excellent, according to preliminary studies now underway at
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Alcott and Clark recently participated in studies that allowed them to
receive massage therapy, acupuncture, or guided imagery after undergoing
"Our patients have gone through a very dramatic event and they're often
in a great deal of discomfort," states study leader Gregory P. Fontana, MD,
a heart surgeon at Cedars-Sinai in a written press release. "I've always
believed that massage and other therapies can be very powerful in helping
patients relax. If they can allow themselves to relax, accept what has
happened, and realize a state of well-being, pain becomes a less important part
of their consciousness."
Fontana's studies on the benefits of massage and acupuncture (the insertion
of tiny needles at specific points on the body) are now in their final stages,
while the study using guided imagery is just beginning. Guided imagery aims to
make beneficial physical changes in the body by repeatedly visualizing them.
These experiments, Fontana says, will pave the way toward larger studies.
Alcott, 62, a resident of Englewood, Calif., received a daily massage for
the week and a half after he underwent heart surgery. "It was
wonderful," he tells WebMD. "I found that it relieved a lot of my
tension and discomfort."
Within 15 minutes of the therapy, Alcott says he was so relaxed that he
actually fell asleep.
Carroll Clark, 53, a salesperson in Ridgecrest, Calif., had a similar
experience when she received acupuncture for 20 minutes a day while in the
hospital after undergoing bypass surgery on four clogged heart arteries in
"I had no pain when I was in the hospital," she tells WebMD. "I
actually thought I was on pain medication when I wasn't."
Mitchell Gaynor, MD, has been on the front lines of such complementary care
for several years. He is director of medical oncology and integrative medicine
at Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York City.
"Our major focus is in cancer treatment and cancer prevention, and we
hold weekly meditation groups for cancer patients and their families," says
Gaynor, the author of several books including "Sounds of Healing: A
Physician Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice, and Music."
Meditation using sound and music helps patients feel better, he says.
"Sound and music are two of the most overlooked healing modalities
ever," Gaynor tells WebMD. "All systems in the body are profoundly
For example, music and sound can lower heart rate, blood pressure levels,
and levels of stress hormones.