hospitalpainA hospital stay is a time of high stress and discomfort for most patients. Traditionally, clinical staff have focused on easing stress through education and comfort measures, and soothing pain via traditional tools like narcotics. But the most recent national HCAHPS results reflect that only 71% of patients report that that their pain was “always” well controlled in the hospital.[1] Clearly drugs can’t do everything for patients, and many hospitals are discovering that complementary therapies are helping to fill this care gap.

The 2010 Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Survey of Hospitals found that 42% of hospitals surveyed offered some form of CAM services to their patients. These services focus on treating the patient holistically – mind, body, and spirit – to achieve better outcomes. And research has demonstrated that CAM techniques such as relaxation, meditation, and guided imagery can be powerful tools in chronic pain management and stress reduction in a wide variety of patient populations, including those admitted for:

  • Total joint replacement surgery.[2] [3]
  • Phantom limb pain.[4]
  • Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.[5]
  • Cancer.[6]
  • Cardiovascular disease.[7]
  • Diabetes. [8] [9]

Also promising is the growing body of research tying exposure to nature with stress reduction and patient well-being. Some hospitals have started integrating patient gardens into their landscape design, and trying other innovative ways to create natural healing spaces. And while bringing a garden to your inpatients may not be logistically feasible, providing them with nature imagery through art and video can serve as an effective substitute. The noted healthcare design expert Dr. Roger Ulrich has done substantial research on the health benefits of natural elements to hospital inpatients. One study he authored found that heart surgery patients exposed to nature scenes in their recovery spaces had lower stress and pain levels than those exposed to abstract art or to no pictures at all. These patient benefits may also translate into shorter hospital stays and improved patient satisfaction scores.

So how do you implement these complementary relaxation techniques into your hospital without a major staff, training, or infrastructure investment? The hospital TV may hold the answer. Channels like MedSerenity offer audio and video relaxation programming set to breathtaking natural scenes, and they play over your existing closed circuit television system. To learn more about MedSerenity, call 888-219-4678 or email


Related Reading


[1] Summary of HCAHPS Survey Results. [Public Reporting Period July 2013 to June 2014 Discharges]. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Baltimore, MD.

[2] Lin PC. An evaluation of the effectiveness of relaxation therapy for patients receiving joint replacement surgery. J Clin Nurs. 2012 Mar;21(5-6):601-8.

[3] Lim YC, Yobas P, Chen HC. Efficacy of relaxation intervention on pain, self-efficacy, and stress-related variables in patients following total knee replacement surgery. Pain Manag Nurs. 2014 Dec;15(4):888-96.

[4] Brunelli S, et al. Efficacy of progressive muscle relaxation, mental imagery, and phantom exercise training on phantom limb: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015 Feb;96(2):181-7.

[5] Kuo B, et al. Genomic and clinical effects associated with a relaxation response mind-body intervention in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. PLoS One. 2015 Apr 30;10(4):e0123861.

[6] Kvillemo P, Bränström R. Experiences of a mindfulness-based stress-reduction intervention among patients with cancer. Cancer Nurs. 2011 Jan-Feb;34(1):24-31.

[7] Delui MH, et al. Comparison of cardiac rehabilitation programs combined with relaxation and meditation techniques on reduction of depression and anxiety of cardiovascular patients. Open Cardiovasc Med J. 2013 Oct 18;7:99-103.

[8] Keyworth C, et al. A mixed-methods pilot study of the acceptability and effectiveness of a brief meditation and mindfulness intervention for people with diabetes and coronary heart disease. Behav Med. 2014;40(2):53-64.

[9] Hartmann M, et al. Sustained effects of a mindfulness-based stress-reduction intervention in type 2 diabetic patients: design and first results of a randomized controlled trial (the Heidelberger Diabetes and Stress-study). Diabetes Care. 2012 May;35(5):945-7.