The Effects of a Single Electronic Music Improvisation Session on the Pain of Adults With Sickle Cell Disease: A Mixed Methods Pilot Study


Journal of Music Therapy




Background: Adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) experience acute pain that is multidimensional. Despite recent improvements in treatment, pain management remains a significant challenge for these individuals. Music therapy interventions have the potential to address several dimensions of SCD pain, but they require systematic investigation. Objective: This study investigated feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a single-session electronic music improvisation with a music therapist to diminish pain intensity and improve pain relief and mood in adults with SCD. Methods: Using a three-group mixed methods intervention design, we randomized 60 adults with SCD to standard care plus one of three 20-minute study conditions: 1) electronic music improvisation with a music therapist (MT); 2) recorded music listening (ML); or 3) no intervention (control). Measures of pain intensity (VASPI), pain relief (VASPR), and mood (VASMOOD) were assessed before and after the study conditions, with a subset of MT and ML participants interviewed after measure completion. Results: Compared to control, MT produced significant improvements in VASPI (odds ratio (OR) = 5.12, P = 0.035) and VASMOOD (OR = 11.60, P = 0.005). ML produced significant improvements in VASMOOD compared to control (OR = 5.76, P = 0.040). Qualitatively, there were two prominent themes directly related to music: 1) ML and MT offered many positive and few negative effects; and 2) music therapists provided comfort beyond the music. Conclusions: Preliminary findings were promising and support the need for additional studies evaluating improvisational music therapy interventions for acute pain management in adults with SCD.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Acute Pain; Improvisation; Mood; Mood Scales; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Music Therapy; Pain; Pain Management and Control; Pain Score or Rating; Pain Severity; Recorded Music Listening; Self-Report Measures; Sickle Cell Disease

Indexed Terms

Affect; Anemia, Sickle Cell; Pain; Pain Management; Pilot Projects

Study Type

Mixed Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type