The The impact of a single music therapy session on pain perception of patients with sickle cell disease

Music Therapy on AYA Patients with Sickle Cell Disease


  • Mariagracia Rivas Berger Children's National Hospital
  • Anthony Meadows Shenandoah University
  • James Bost Children's National Hospital
  • Stefanie Marguiles
  • Brenda Martin Children's National Hospital
  • Brittany Moffitt Children's National Hospital
  • Dr Speller-Brown Children's National Hospital



Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a genetic condition characterized by pain. The neuromatrix theory of pain suggests pain is a multimodal experience, recognizing the importance of interventions like music therapy (MT), which address the physical and emotional pain experience. This study examined the impact of a MT session on 21 hospitalized patients’ self-reported VOC and its overall benefits. Utilizing a convergent mixed methods design, pain scores were collected prior to, during, and after sessions, with a follow-up interview. Significant changes were observed. Patients reported an average 3.03-point difference between their pre-intervention and MT-intervention score (p<0.001). When pre- and post-intervention scores were compared, patients reported an average 1.9-point pain reduction (p<0.001). Five themes emerged: decreased pain, increased insight, openness in verbal engagement, improved mood, and expressive freedom. The ways in which patients engaged suggest the importance of simultaneously addressing the physical, cognitive and emotional pain experience. When patients became agents of their own pain management, it engaged them in a reflexive process that altered their pain perception, improved their mood, and changed their relationship with SCD. MT is beneficial in reducing pain, simultaneously addressing the multidimensional pain experience. Further research is needed to evaluate mechanisms of impact, including addressing medication dosage.


Keywords: Music therapy, sickle cell disease, pain management, neuromatrix theory, hematology

Author Biographies

Mariagracia Rivas Berger, Children's National Hospital

Mariagracia Rivas Berger is a pediatric medical music therapist in Northern Virginia and passionate about music therapy advocacy and growth. 

Anthony Meadows, Shenandoah University

Anthony Meadows is Director of Music Therapy at Shenandoah University. 

James Bost, Children's National Hospital

James Bost is the Division Chief of Biostatistics and Study Methodology at Children’s National Hospital and Associate Professor at the GW Department of Pediatrics.

Stefanie Marguiles

Stefanie Marguiles is a Clinical Research Manager II in support of Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program (IDCRP) at Henry M. Jackson Foundation 

Brenda Martin, Children's National Hospital

Brenda Martin contributes to the sickle cell community as a Hematology Pediatric Nurse Practitioner promoting quality care through research and publication.

Brittany Moffitt , Children's National Hospital

Brittany Moffitt is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice providing psychotherapy to clients in Maryland. 

Dr Speller-Brown, Children's National Hospital

Dr. Speller-Brown is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with Sickle Cell Disease, in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National Hospital Washington, D.C. 





Full Length Articles