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Music Helps Soothe Pain Symptoms

June 16, 2014
There is a mounting body of evidence that music may be a useful adjunct to pain management both before, during, and after surgery.

It has long been known that music can be used to calm and relax people. A new study also shows that music therapy can be used to reduce postoperative pain.

“Listening to music to reduce patients’ mild or moderate postoperative pain is an easy intervention and has no adverse effects,” wrote the study authors from the University of Eastern Finland in a recent editorial in Pain Management.1 “It has been established that listening to music after surgery could spare the use of analgesia and limit its adverse effects. Additionally, music triggers positive physiological responses, such as reduced blood pressure and respiratory rates.”

The researchers cited a previous study in which patients recovering from open-heart surgery were administered music to help alleviate pain. The study concluded music helped alleviate “pain up to 23%.”

For patients, it has been shown that music provides a healing environment and enhances the quality of the patient’s hospital stay. Because pain can be a highly subjective experience for patients, other treatment options, especially music, should be explored so as to help alleviate the stress caused by pain, noted the authors.

The article focused on postoperative patients, who commonly experience moderate to severe pain after surgery. The authors suggest that “music medicine” could be supplied to patients after their surgeries in the form of headphones. They cited numerous recent studies that have examined the effects of music on pain management in virtually every age group, including infants, adolescents, adults and the elderly.

They found that few adverse effects came from administering music to patients. In fact, music has commonly been found to reduce stress in people, lowering their respiratory and cardiovascular rates, reducing postoperative delirium, improving their stay at the hospital after surgery, and providing a healing environment for the patients.

The study did, however, make mention of the obvious caveats associated with music therapy. Some patients can be severely disturbed by music that doesn’t fit their individual taste. Some people have no connection to or find any meaning in listening to music.

Infections can also spread if hospitals begin administering headphones, and playing music on an open-space speaker can lead to more difficult communication between anesthesiologists and patients during surgery. Because of these factors, the authors prescribed that patients use their own personal headphones or a music pillow to prevent these problems from occurring.

The authors suggest that if music is administered to patients after surgery, the patient’s age, cultural background, and musical taste should be taken into account, with classical music being the safest genre to administer in acute situations.

The authors wish to conduct an impact study to yield more conclusive quantifiable and qualitative evidence as to the effects of music therapy on patients after surgery. They posit the question of whether the effects of music therapy can be assessed through raw numbers or if other means of documentation would be more suitable. Regardless, music therapy should be researched more as a means to supplement analgesic pain management for patients suffering from post surgery pain.

Last updated on: May 4, 2015