UH Richmond leading the way in fighting opioid epidemic with music therapy

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio -

About eight people die every day from a drug overdose in Ohio. To help fight the epidemic, there is a push for alternative treatments for pain.

Starting this January, all hospitals have to offer non-drug treatments. Some are already taking notes from a community hospital right here in Northeast Ohio.

“These patients really need another avenue to truly try to help them in their pain, to control their pain better, that isn't using medications, because medications are not the answer, and definitely not long-term,” explained Patty Tumbush, pharmacy supervisor at University Hospitals Richmond Medical Center.

Tumbush decided to try something a little different at her hospital and teamed up with music therapist Seneca Block, the expressive therapy program lead for Connor Integrative Health Network.

“It's very interesting that we've seen a great deal of success using music therapy for pain management,” Block said. “So much of pain is psychosocial and it really is about the patient's perception of that pain.”

The team wasn't complete until they brought Dr. Susan Ratay, director of Osteopathic Recognition, on board. She specializes in osteopathic manipulation — incorporating holistic, therapeutic touch.

“It's just interesting because if we think about the history, music has always played a huge role in how we ritualistically treated pain,” said Dr. Ratay. “You know, you think about religious ceremonies and things like that. Manual medicine, you know, we instinctively will kind of hold our neck when it hurts or push on our belly when it hurts.”

Friday, they visited Douglas Moreland, who is recovering from surgery.

“I think that’s something different,” he said. “That’s nice. That’ll make people feel a lot better.”

Dr. Ratay says their approach goes back to our roots.

“Opiates have not been around all that long in the scope of pain management, and so we're kind of going back to the initial ways that we treated pain and then using opiates as the adjunct,” she explained. “So, rather than using music therapy and OMT as the adjunct, it should be the other way around.”

Plus, music therapy works. Studies show it reduces a patient’s perception of pain.

“It really gives the patient perspective that there are other things they can do besides take medication,” said Tumbush.

And their little team is part of something much bigger.

“This is a huge cultural shift in education, in not only how we're educating our patients about pain, how we're educating our prescribers,” Dr. Ratay said.

“Being that this is a training institution and we have medical students and we have residents, we have pharmacy residents, we're bringing in musical therapy trainees, this is a great opportunity for us to treat future providers on the appropriate utilization of opiates and pain management.”

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