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Stanford University School of Medicine

New video shows kids how to manage pain from minor medical procedures

Pediatricians want children to feel comfortable in their hospital beds, but it can be really hard for kids when people keep poking and prodding them.

To reduce children's distress about blood draws and other potentially painful medical procedures, specialists at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford are trying something new: They've created a kid-friendly video, "You are the Boss of Your Brain: Learning How Pain Works." The video explains why we feel pain and gives lots of ideas for how to help minor medical procedures hurt less. It uses friendly, humorous, whiteboard-style animation aimed at children aged 5 to 10.

"We want kids and parents to be able to advocate for what they need when a child is having a painful poke," said Jody Winzelberg, AuD, the hospital's administrative director of patient and family services. On June 12, the hospital will launch a pilot project to test whether the video and an accompanying "comfort kit" successfully reduce hospitalized children's pain and distress, Winzelberg said.

To help kids understand how pain works, the video starts by asking them to imagine that their bodies need a warning system because they're cavemen being bitten by dinosaurs. "When a dinosaur tries to eat you, pain is very useful!" says the narrator, as a cartoon stegosaurus registers disappointment over the escape of its caveman snack.

The narration continues:

But your body also sometimes gets confused and sends a pain signal to your brain when you're not in danger. Pain signals can even happen when something is actually helping your body, like when you're at the doctor, getting medicine with a needle, or when you have a blood test.

The video gives five strategies children can use to lessen their pain: distracting themselves; imagining doing something that makes them feel good; breathing deeply; blocking the pain signal with numbing medications, vibration or an ice pack; and remembering that they are awesome. Each strategy is explained with kid-friendly examples of how to use it, as well as tips on how adults can help.

The pain-lessening techniques have long been used by the hospital's pain management and child life experts, but there aren't enough of these hospital staffers to have one present for every minor medical procedure, Winzelberg said. "So we asked 'How do we give children skills to self-regulate in this kind of situation and carry their newfound skills to outpatient settings and doctors' offices?'"

The video has already received recognition from the International Symposium on Pediatric Pain, which will be honoring it during their annual meeting's media fest in July.

The Association of Auxiliaries, through the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, provided funding for the video's development.

Previously: Teens use photography to depict journeys through chronic pain, Pain and the brain: How love, fear, and much more affect the experience of pain and Research reveals circuit that clarifies how stress exacerbates pain and medication eases it
Video courtesy of Stanford Children's Health

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