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Psychological interventions for needle-related procedural pain and distress in children and adolescents

Uman LS, Birnie KA, Noel M, Parker JA, Chambers CT, McGrath PJ, Kisely SR
Published Online: 
10 October 2013

Psychological interventions (for example, distraction, hypnosis, coping skills training) are treatments used to reduce pain and distress (anxiety and fear, or both) that children and adolescents experience while undergoing medical procedures involving needles. There is strong evidence that distraction and hypnosis are effective in reducing the pain and distress that children and adolescents experience during needle procedures. Distraction techniques can often be quite simple, such as reading the child stories, watching television, listening to music, or talking about something other than the needle. Sometimes parents or nurses are involved in helping to distract the child, although that is not always necessary. Interventions such as hypnosis may require some teaching by a trained professional for a child to learn. Other psychological treatments, such as explaining what is going to happen before or during the procedure (labelled 'providing information or preparation or both'), using virtual reality (for example, interactive video equipment, goggles, computers showing images, games, stories), or a combination of various strategies have been tested. More research is needed to know whether they are effective for reducing children's pain and distress during needles.