LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — It's a new approach to help hospitalized kids deal with pain management.
Actually, not so new.
CBS2's Kristine Lazar reports that a pain management team at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, is using eastern techniques that have been around for thousands of years.
The pain management team -- known as the Heart Touch Project -- consists of doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, massage therapists, physical therapists and acupuncturists.
Massage and acupuncture have been found to be especially effective in helping small people -- from tiny babies to teens -- deal with big pain.
The project is designed to help critically ill kids and infants cope better with their pain by using therapeutic touch. It's also designed to make young people less dependent on drugs and prescription medications to alleviate their suffering.
"I tell them, I am just taking out the trash. I'm taking off the tensions that they're holding," explains Alice Wilson, a massage therapist in the Heart Touch Project.
"They have to get used to what I feel like. That I'm not a threat to them. That I'm compassion. A different type of feeling," says Wilson.
Among her patients, 11-week-old Julian. He was rushed to the hospital after a traumatic birth.
Lazar reports the boy's mother -- Adeienne Bermudas -- jumped at the opportunity for Julian to take part in Heart Touch.
"He needs to learn that touch isn't bad," Bermudas said, "because it does comfort him. He is not going to get poked, or something bad will happen."
For most of her adolescence, bad things have happened to 14-year-old Linnea Fredriksson.
First, it was surgery for a hernia. Then she had to have surgery on both knees. Her recovery has been slow.
"They've diagnosed it as chronic pain," says Fredriksson. "So I live with it every day."
She tells Lazar that she one enjoyed dance -- was on her way to doing it professionally. But pain has sidetracked her from everything she's wanted to do in life and from everything she enjoyed.
"I didn't really have a life. I kinda stayed home with the pain. I slept a lot, I couldn't see my friends a lot," Fredriksson says.
Since receiving weekly massages and acupuncture, Fredriksson has a whole new lease on life. Her spirits are rising.
"Since I always comes here on Wednesdays," she says, "I always plan on doing things Wednesday night. It's really nice to be able to have fun again."
Doctor Jeffrey Gold, director of the pain clinic at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and a pediatric psychologist, knows that the program is good for the kids' mental and physical health.
For one thing, he says, less medications is easily translated into one major advantage.
"Less side effects," says Dr. Gold.
The program is such a success, there is a three-month waiting list for Heart Touch.
"At the pain clinic, we don't guarantee that they will be pain free. But the goal is to get them back to their regular lives," says Dr. Gold.
Some of the patients don't even know what a "regular" life is.
Take, for example, 12-day-old Leah. Lazar said she was born nine weeks premature. She's already had surgery on her intestines.
Leah is also one of Alice Wilson's youngest patients.
"I'm not a nurse. I'm not a doctor. I'm not their parent," Wilson says. "I'm not worried like they all are. For me, to sing and stroke them and move them, I'm more like a sedative."
Dr. Gold cautions that not every western child has responded to the eastern methods.
"It's not magic," he says, "It's a cumulative response from a child."
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