• children;
  • postoperative;
  • pain;
  • intensity;
  • behaviours;
  • parents;
  • nonpharmacological methods;
  • alleviation

Study background. Nonpharmacological methods are stated to be effective in alleviating children's postoperative pain when used as an adjuvant to analgesics. However, little is known about how these methods are used by parents at home.

Purpose of the study. The purpose of this study was to describe parents' use of nonpharmacological methods at home in 1–6-year-old children's pain alleviation after minor day surgery.

Methods. Mothers (n  = 201) and fathers (n  = 114) whose child had undergone day surgery in 10 Finnish hospitals between October 2000 and September 2001 filled in a questionnaire including a Visual Analogue Scale, Parents' Postoperative Pain Measure and a subscale consisting of 25 items measuring parents' use of several nonpharmacological pain alleviation methods with their children at home after day surgery.

Results. The most frequently used nonpharmacological pain alleviation methods were holding the child on the parent's lap, comforting the child and spending more time with them. Differences were found in mothers' and fathers' use of these methods. In addition, several methods were used more with girls than with boys. Significant relationships were found between parents' use of nonpharmacological pain alleviation methods and children's pain intensity and pain behaviour.

Conclusions. Parents used several nonpharmacological pain alleviation methods with their children. However, their implementation seemed to be gender-related and limited to methods that were familiar to the parents from everyday life. The findings can be used in advising parents to use nonpharmacological pain alleviation methods at home after surgical procedures. Further research using experimental designs is needed into the effectiveness of these methods.