Effects of preparatory information and distraction on children's cold-pressor pain outcomes: a randomized controlled trial

Behav Res Ther. 2007 Nov;45(11):2789-99. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2007.07.005. Epub 2007 Jul 24.


This experimental study investigated whether preparatory sensory information was more effective in managing children's pain when coupled with a distraction technique. Seventy-eight children aged 7-12 years were randomly allocated to 1 of 4 experimental conditions. They were given either a detailed sensory description of an imminent painful event (cold-pressor arm immersion in 10 degrees C water) or control instructions lacking sensory information. During the cold-pressor task, half the sample received an imagery-based distraction intervention. Pain measures included immersion tolerance, self-reported pain intensity, and facial pain responses. Self-reported coping style was assessed using the Pain Coping Questionnaire [Reid, G. J., Gilbert, C. A., & McGrath, P. J. (1998). The pain coping questionnaire: Preliminary validation. Pain, 76, 83-96]. The effects of information provision interacted with distraction for pain intensity but not pain tolerance. Children given sensory preparation reported less intense pain when this was coupled with distraction than when it was not. Children with a distraction-based coping style showed greater tolerance when assigned to a condition congruent with their coping style. These findings suggest ways to better prepare children for painful medical procedures.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attention*
  • Child
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*