Music Could Ease Pain Before, During And After Surgery, Study Finds

According to a comprehensive study, music relieves pain before after and even while surgery is being performed.

Over the course of years studies have examined the ‘power of music’ to comfort this sort of pain; one such survey that was  published on Wednesday in The Lancet, consolidates findings from over 4000 such studies and presents a solid case, as reported in NPR

In London, when the researchers began exploring the medical literature for studies regarding music’s soothing power, they discovered numerous small studies, advising some benefit. This  idea dates back to the days of Florence Nightingale, when surgical pain was eased with the help of music, during 1914.  Patricia Neighmond from NPR commented on one of these studies  in June.

Dr. Catherine Meads from Brunel University heavily relied to the data from 73 random clinical tests to study the role of music amidst surgery patients .  “As they studies themselves were small, they really didn’t find all that much,” Meads says. “But once we put them all together, we had much more power to find whether music worked or not.”

She and her team eventually did come to conclusion that surgery patients who listened to music, either before, after and even during surgery, were doing much better — in terms of decreased pain, patient contentment and  lessened anxiety.

Those who listened to music received less pain medication on average.  Meads also found that patients who listened to music, on average, self-reported about two notches lower on a ten point pain scale. That’s the kind of relief typically described when given a dose of pain-killing medicine.

Certain hospitals do advocate patients to listen to music, but according to Meads, this practice should be more broadly adopted, after observing its effectiveness on patients.  In some studies, the patients themselves selected the music they wanted to listen to. “It could be anything from Spanish guitar to Chinese classical music.”  And, contrary to drugs, she adds, music “doesn’t seem to have any side effects.”

Although, some studies (such as this one) concluded that operating rooms are extremely noisy, and playing music in the room has the potential for distracting surgical staff.  Doctors might have to repeat requests, and there is the possibility for increased error and higher anxiety.  “If surgeons are listening to music, it can be a bit of a distraction,” Meads says. “So it may be it’s not such a wise idea to have it during the operation itself.”

However, this wasn’t something Meads was looking for in her study regarding ‘music and medicine’.  Some surgeons listen to music while they are in a procedure, and it is difficult to know how easy it would be to change their habits.



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