Ouch! Evaluating Tricks to Help Ease Pain

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Author: Megan Doyle, Ph.D.

People use a variety of techniques to deal with pain or discomfort. Common pain management techniques include listening to music, massage, and deep breathing. This experiment will evaluate how well these strategies are able to help test subjects manage the discomfort of icy water.


Which technique allows the test subject to manage his or her discomfort for the longest amount of time?


  • A bowl that is big enough to fully submerge a hand
  • Ice water
  • A stop watch
  • Music
  • Hand held massager


  1. Fill the bowl with ice water.
  2. Start your stopwatch when the test subject puts his or her hand in the bowl of ice water.
  3. Record how long the subject is able to keep his or her hand in the bowl of ice water.
  4. Wait 5-10 minutes between each test.
  5. Turn on music and repeat the test.
  6. Ask subject to do slow, deep breathing while performing the test.
  7. Use massager on subject while performing the test.
  8. Evaluate any other techniques you encounter in your research.
  9. Repeat all of the steps for many different subjects.

Sample table for recording data:


Pain Management Technique

Subject 1

Subject 2

Subject 3

Subject 4

Subject 5

Subject 6


? seconds




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