Music Really Does Heal: Study Finds It Reduces Pain in Surgery Patients

Music Really Does Heal: Study Finds It Reduces Pain in Surgery Patients
While some might say that music and drugs have always gone hand-in-hand, new medical research is showing that music may actually be a suitable substitute for drugs in recovering surgery patients. Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London in the UK have conducted a new review that found music played before, during and after surgery can help reduce pain and anxiety.
 
Publishing their results in The Lancet on Wednesday (August 12), the research team looked at 70 trials, including about 7,000 patients, and compared the effects of playing "soothing" music with those of undisturbed bed rest, headphones without music, white noise and routine care. Even when patients were under general anesthetic, the effects of playing music were felt — though results didn't indicate that the effects were strong enough to replace the anesthetic.
 
"If you can imagine a way of measuring pain from nought to 10 on a centimetre scale where nought is no pain at all and 10 is the worst pain imaginable, the music we found reduced peoples' pain by about two on that scale," said lead author Dr. Catherine Meads [via CBC]. Two notches on the pain scale is often the equivalent of one dose of painkilling medication.
 
"When you've just come around from an operation, quite often you don't feel very well at all, and you're in quite a lot of pain and you don't have any energy to do very much like reading or watching television," Meads continued. She personally listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon during recovery from hip surgery.
 
An excerpt from the findings recommends implementing the practice in a variety of medical environments and institutions, and reads: "Music could be offered as a way to help patients reduce pain and anxiety during the postoperative period. Timing and delivery can be adapted to individual clinical settings and medical teams."
 
And although playing music before, during and after surgery may be a cheap, easy and effective means of helping patients recover, concerns have been raised about the distraction factor of playing music in the operating room. The new review didn't observe the effects of operating room music on surgeons, though Meads' team plans to look into the reasons behind existing music bans during caesarian section operations.
 
"If music can become distracting even during one operation, it is one too many and awareness has to be raised among clinical managers, but also the general public who are cared for under these circumstances," warned Sharon-Marie Weldon from Imperial College London.