Alternative therapies ease stress of hospital stay

Special to the Herald-LeaderOctober 27, 2013 

Cathrine Weaver, Baptist Health

Stress-related conditions account for 60 to 80 percent of doctor visits each year. As we all know, stress can happen anywhere — at home, work or on your morning commute. While a little stress actually helps in certain situations, ongoing stress can cause problems.

Continued stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, anxiety, headaches or trouble sleeping. When ignored, these negative effects of stress can lead to more serious conditions that may require hospitalization. However, being in the hospital brings with it a whole different type of stress for the patient and their family members.

Worrying about diagnosis, treatment, finances, frustrations related to the hospital's physical environment, and feelings of social isolation contribute add stress, whether you are in the hospital for a quick procedure or for an extended period. This stress can contribute to discomfort, trouble controlling pain when on pain medication, trouble concentrating on new information, or trouble sleeping.

How do you turn all of that stress off when there is a constant stream of people in and out of your hospital room asking questions, poking and prodding, taking you for tests, and bombarding you with information? One way is to take advantage of what are called complementary/alternative practices.

Complementary/alternative practices, also referred to as integrative practices, are used to help with coping, and over the last 15 years have become more prevalent in hospitals. Many of these practices are easy to learn and can be used even after you have gone home.

Among the more popular complementary/alternative practices used in hospitals are pet therapy visits, massage, music, art, relaxation breathing, drumming or guided imagery. They can help manage stress, pain, nausea and anxiety; promote rest and sleep; and reduce the sense of social isolation patients may feel while in the hospital.

Complementary/alternative practices are meant to be used along with conventional medicine, not as a replacement for any treatments your doctor may recommend. Family members who visit can also benefit from these activities.

The next time you or a loved one must be in the hospital, ask your nurse about complementary/alternative practices they may offer.

Cathrine Weaver is a registered nurse and coordinator for an integrative practice program at Baptist Health Lexington.

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