Music therapy improves pain coping ability for patients with sickle cell disease

DN Bureau

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited red blood cell disorder, in which there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.

File Photo
File Photo

Cleveland (Ohio): Sickle cell anemia is an inherited red blood cell disorder, in which there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. 

A new study from University Hospitals (UH) Connor Whole Health found that patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) who participated in music therapy learned new self-management skills and improved their ability to cope with pain.

The findings from this study were recently published in the 'Journal of Pain Research'.

SCD is an inherited disorder that affects red blood cells. In someone who has SCD, red blood cells become hard, sticky and C-shaped. When they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. Many patients with SCD face serious health challenges including anemia, stroke, organ damage, and severe episodes of pain. Patients may have trouble managing daily life which can lead to depression.

"It feels like someone's constantly stabbing you, but you're not dying. You're just being stabbed over and over for a week or more," said Tasha Taylor, 40, of Cleveland, a patient with SCD.

SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans and occurs in about one of every 365 Black or African-American births according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But according to, "it is really important to recognize sickle cell disease is not just a disease of Black people. Latinos have the second most common incidence in the U.S. Importantly, sickle cell disease is present globally. The country with the third-highest prevalence in the world is India."

Over the past 10 years, UH Connor Whole Health (UH Connor) has provided thousands of music therapy sessions, both individualized and group, to hundreds of adults with SCD. UH Connor manages the largest health system-based music therapy program in the U.S. Board-certified music therapists collaborate with providers across the system to help patients and their families manage the physical and emotional toll of an illness or hospitalization.

Additionally, UH Connor provides a diverse offering of whole health services, including acupuncture, chiropractic, and integrative medicine consults, that are centred on the patient's entire well-being. The goal of these services is to equip patients with the ability to take charge of their physical, mental, and spiritual health to live full and meaningful lives.

"Our most widely used integrative approach has been the use of music therapy to assist with pain management, quality of life, and the transition from pediatric to adult care for individuals with sickle cell disease," said Samuel Rodgers-Melnick, a music therapist and integrative health research and data specialist with UH Connor.

In "Effects of Music Therapy on Quality of Life in Adults with Sickle Cell Disease (MUSIQOLS): A Mixed Methods Feasibility Study" researchers examined whether a 6-part music therapy intervention was feasible, acceptable, and beneficial among adults with SCD experiencing chronic pain. Some patients participated in in-person music therapy sessions, with exercises like music-based breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery, and active music-making.

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