New Study Shows Music Can Help Reduce Pain

Music is something people use to handle all sorts of situations. We get our own doses of relaxation when under severe stress through our headphones or speakers, sometimes we even break into dance to go along. Music therapy has been implemented into medical routines with hopes of aiding to a patient’s treatment or recovery.

Recent findings reveal that music is especially effective in reducing pain.

The non-pharmacological intervention recently assessed by a research team adhering to recommendations of the Cochrane Collaboration, has been found effective in reducing pain in pediatric patients who underwent invasive surgery. Management of post-operative surgical pain is often handled by analgesics, a class of drugs used to relieve pain. However, preventing post-operative pain entirely is rarely feasible.

The study findings have been published in Public Library of Science (PLOS).

What is a Cochrane Review?

A Cochrane Review is a systematic review of primary research in human health care or health policy. Any existing primary research on a specific topic which meets specific study criteria is searched for and organized, then evaluated using rigorous guidelines. This precise methodology is applied in order to prevent a reviewer from only combining research which supports his or her opinions, hypotheses, or commercial interests. In evidence-based health care, the Cochrane Reviews are globally recognized as the premier standard.

The Specifics

The review found that music has the potential to lessen pain in children undergoing invasive surgery. The research team selected and reviewed abstracts fitting their specific criteria: randomized controlled trials (RCT) with a study population consisting of pediatric invasive surgery patients anywhere from 1 month to 18 years old where the control group received standard care while the study group received music intervention. The research team included music interventions with live music from a music therapist or recorded music. Studies were excluded if the music intervention included other therapies, like massage, or if the surgeries were non-invasive. Of the 4,846 records searched, only three RCT’s were identified that met all inclusion criteria.

The studies measured pain intensity with three scales: the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), the Colored Analogue Scale (CAS), and the Facial Pain Scale (FPS). Pooled results found significant pain-reducing effects of music for the intervention compared to the control group. The review also found larger and significant decreases in pain within the intervention group by comparing the pain scale before and after the music intervention was carried out, allowing patients to serve as their own controls.

Importance and Future Implications

Music interventions are advantageous for a few reasons. Music therapies, both live and recorded, are non-invasive in nature. Recorded music interventions are also cost-effective. With this in mind, these results have clear clinical practice utility when considering pain management post-surgery for pediatric patients. Although pain management will continue to depend on analgesics, music interventions alongside pain medication can help to reduce pain more completely. Further investigation comparing live music therapy to recorded music therapy could be an avenue to explore in the future, as live music interventions are inherently easier to carry out.

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