Alternative medicine trial offers therapy for children in pain

30th January 2014

A world-first clinical research trial at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital in Canada now provides alternative treatment for children suffering from painful illnesses.

Families of children suffering from pain, anxiety, nausea and vomiting, may take part in the study and choose from alternative therapies like massage therapy, acupuncture, acupressure and reiki.

The Pediatric Integrative Medicine Trial seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative therapies under the leadership of Dr. Sunita Vohra, a pediatrician with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and a scientist and professor with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry in the Department of Pediatrics with the University of Alberta.

“This kind of work has never been done in a children’s hospital anywhere in the world, to our knowledge,” says Dr. Vohra. “Even though we have the very best care to offer, we still want to do more."

While medicines do exist for pain and anxiety, for example, sometimes patients don’t want them because “what helps relieve your pain or anxiety might also make you fall asleep when your intention might be to be awake and pain-free, or awake without anxiety,” she adds.

The trial received a funding of $750,000 from The Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation of Vancouver, a non-profit body that backs the investigation and support of complementary and alternative medicine, particularly in the treatment of cancer.

The alternative therapies under evaluation were selected based on safety and positive risk-benefit ratios.

“We’ve known about patient-centred care for a long time,” says Dr. Vohra. “The leap here is to patient-centred research — a critical transition. This really does take on that philosophy. We’re saying: Let’s start with the patient, with what they’re asking for and are interested in, and then work with them to try and identify which therapies might be helpful to them.

“We’ve found that more than half of our patients already use complementary therapies. In pediatric oncology, for example, we know that many, many children with cancer are trying all kinds of different ways to support their health at a time that’s very stressful to them. We asked ourselves: While they’re in hospital, what else can we do to make them feel better?”

Twelve-year-old Garret McComber of Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. suffers from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), or cancer of white blood cells.

Symptoms of ALL include weakness and fatigue; bone pain; fever; frequent infections and nosebleeds; shortness of breath; bleeding gums, and lumps caused by swollen lymph nodes.

Garret’s mother, Melissa, brings him to Edmonton for regular care and chemotherapy.

“I love this program. Garret loves it too. I’ve watched my kid go from total agony and in pain and worked right up—and then one of the acupressurists will come in—and 10 minutes later, this kid’s almost asleep,” says Melissa.

“When my leg’s in very bad pain, it’s very helpful,” adds Garret.


Source: Beacon News, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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