Music as a Way of Decreasing Perceived Pain in Children

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Music is such a big part of people’s lives – I couldn’t imagine my life without it at all. I have previously posted about how it can be used during therapy sessions to help encourage, and distract children, and now there have been findings to support the view that music can decrease children’s perceived sense of pain.

Lisa Hartling and colleagues carried out a clinical research trial of 42 children (aged 3-11) who had been admitted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital. All children in the trial needed IV’s, so the comparison was made between children who listened to music while getting IV’s and children who didn’t. The child’s distress was measured, as well as their perceived pain levels and heart rate for an accurate comparison, and a difference was discovered.

The children who listened to music during the procedure reported less pain, and displayed less distress. The children’s parents were also more satisfied with the care their child had received – giving an added bonus to the use of music. In this group of children, 76% of the healthcare providers reported that the IV’s were easy to administer, which is a big difference from the 38% in the no music group.

A further finding was that children born prematurely also experienced more pain overall – a factor they hope to investigate more over the coming years.

Hartling reports “the finding [of this study] is clinically important and it’s a simple interventions that can make a big difference. Playing music for kids during painful medical procedures would be an inexpensive and easy-to-use intervention in clinical settings”.

However, it is important that the type of music used is researched more thoroughly, as there is growing scientific evidence that the brain responds to different types of music in different ways. Hartling proposes that further research into how and why music is a better distraction from pain could help to advance in this field.


Something I have noticed this previous week, by getting involved in ‘s Rock School, is the massive impact music has on young people in general. There is something fulfilling about it, especially when it comes to making your own music. So I will keep an eye out for more research into the positive effects of music to keep us all up to date.



Written by: Philippa Berry


Photograph Source.


Journal Ref:

Lisa Hartling, Amanda S. Newton, Yuanyuan Liang,Hsing Jou, Krista Hewson, Terry P. Klassen, Sarah Curtis. Music to Reduce Pain and Distress in the Pediatric Emergency DepartmentA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatrics, 2013 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.200