The efficacy of mechanical vibration analgesia for relief of heel stick pain in neonates: A novel approach

Lisa R. Baba, Jacqueline M. McGrath, Jiexin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Hospitalized infants are often exposed to many painful procedures as a result of their illness or disease process. Untreated or poorly treated pain can have deleterious effects on normal nociceptive pain development as well as future development of pain pathways. Mechanical vibration has been found to be efficacious in adult and pediatric populations for the relief of mild-to-moderate acute and chronic pain. However, little is known about the efficacy of this intervention in the neonatal population. AIM: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that mechanical vibration would be efficacious in the relief of pain associated with heel sticks in neonates. Heel sticks are one of the most common painful procedures during neonatal hospitalization. Study Design: A random-sequencing crossover design was used with infants acting as their own controls. Subjects: Newborn infants of 35 weeks' gestation or greater (N = 20) met the inclusion criteria for the study. Outcome Measures: Pain during heel stick was measured with the Neonatal Infant Pain Scale. The Neonatal Infant Pain Scale is a nonintrusive tool with extensive evidence of its reliability and validity in the neonatal population, when used by trained observers. Results: Mechanical vibration produced an analgesic effect for infants who had previously experienced painful heel sticks that approached statistical significance. Conclusions: The apparent limitations of mechanical vibration as analgesia may be due to the concurrent use of sucrose and pacifier, the effects of order (ie, habituation), or type II error. Because vibration produced the predicted positive effect in some circumstances, further investigation in larger samples within a randomized clinical trial is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-283
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • neonatal nursing
  • newborn
  • nonpharmacological pain management
  • procedural pain
  • vibration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Critical Care
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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