Newswise — CLEVELAND – A new study from University Hospitals (UH) Connor Whole Health found 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 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 centered 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. Other patients in the waitlist control group did not receive these therapies. All participants completed daily electronic pain diaries as well as quality of life measures prior to and following the intervention period.

Results showed that the intervention was feasible, with high rates of enrollment, attendance, and measure completion. Interviews revealed that participants learned new self-management skills and experienced improved ability to cope with pain.

When comparing participants in music therapy versus participants in the control group, researchers found that self-efficacy and social functioning increased while pain interference and sleep disturbance decreased.  

“My pain would be a 10, but when I was done with our music therapy lessons, I was at a four or a five,” said Taylor, who participates in music therapy with UH Connor. “Music eases my pain. It eases my body. It eases everything. It calms me. It calms my anxiety and depression.”

Rodgers-Melnick served as the principal investigator for the first systematic research on the use of music therapy for individuals with SCD and has led multiple studies on the topic since 2014. These studies support the benefits of music therapy for managing acute pain, improving self-efficacy, and improving sickle cell disease knowledge in adolescents and young adults transitioning from pediatric to adult care.

“The findings from this latest study show that patients with SCD are willing to participate in music therapy, whether in the hospital setting or at home, and when they do, it helps their pain and improves their quality of life,” said Rodgers-Melnick. “This is what we want for our patients, and this is why we’re so passionate about sharing the successes of addressing pain with music therapy.”

“This study is just one example of the broader impact UH Connor is making on the research front,” explained Francoise Adan, MD, Chief Whole Health & Well-being Officer and the Christopher M. & Sara H. Connor Chair in Integrative Health, University Hospitals Health System and Director, UH Connor Whole Health. “Connor Whole Health is one of the largest clinical programs across the country, and this effort exemplifies our leadership and expertise in music therapy.”

You can read “Effects of Music Therapy on Quality of Life in Adults with Sickle Cell Disease (MUSIQOLS): A Mixed Methods Feasibility Study” in the Journal of Pain Research by clicking here.


About UH Connor Whole Health

UH Connor Whole Health is part of University Hospitals (UH), a comprehensive health system with annual revenues in excess of $5.0 billion, 23 hospitals (including 5 joint ventures), more than 50 health centers and outpatient facilities, and over 200 physician offices located throughout 16 counties. UH’s goal is to be the most trusted health care partner in Northeast Ohio and UH Connor Whole Health furthers this objective by working to strengthen relationships between patients and providers to improve outcomes. The Whole Health approach prioritizes compassionate care centered on the patient’s entire well-being. The health care provider’s goal is to equip and empower each patient to take charge of their physical, mental, and spiritual health in order to live a full and meaningful life. Linking the patient’s larger purpose and life goals to their lifestyle allows clinical services, integrative medicine, and well-being programs to be delivered in a way that increases collaboration, motivation, and adherence to self-care and clinical needs. UH Connor Whole Health services include acupuncture, art therapy, chiropractic, expressive therapy (art, dance, and music), guided imagery, integrative medicine/lifestyle medicine consultations (adult and pediatric), massage therapy, meditation, mindfulness, osteopathic sports rehabilitation, stress management and resilience training workshops and yoga. For more information, visit UH Follow UH Connor Whole Health on LinkedIn.

About University Hospitals / Cleveland, Ohio Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of 23 hospitals (including 5 joint ventures), more than 50 health centers and outpatient facilities, and over 200 physician offices in 16 counties throughout northern Ohio. The system’s flagship quaternary care, academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Oxford University and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. The main campus also includes the UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation; UH MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; and UH Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. UH is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research programs in the nation, with more than 3,000 active clinical trials and research studies underway. UH Cleveland Medical Center is perennially among the highest performers in national ranking surveys, including “America’s Best Hospitals” from U.S. News & World Report. UH is also home to 19 Clinical Care Delivery and Research Institutes. UH is one of the largest employers in Northeast Ohio with more than 30,000 employees. Follow UH on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. For more information, visit


Journal Link: Journal of Pain Research