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Music Eases Pain, Anxiety for Surgery Patients

Music Eases Pain, Anxiety for Surgery Patients

Patients who listen to music before, during, or after a surgical procedure can significantly reduce their pain and anxiety as well as their need for pain medication, according to a new U.K. analysis. Researchers also found a slightly greater reduction in pain when patients were allowed to choose their own music.

Although numerous studies over the years have examined the power of music to ease pain during surgery, the new analysis pulls all of those findings together to build a strong case for music therapy. The analysis, which involved almost 7,000 patients and is the most comprehensive research of its kind, is published in The Lancet.

“As the studies themselves were small, they really didn’t find all that much,” said lead author Dr. Catherine Meads from Brunel University. “But once we put them all together, we had much more power to find whether music worked or not.”

For the study, a team of researchers from Brunel University and Queen Mary University of London conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all published randomized trials examining the impact of music on postoperative recovery in adult patients undergoing any form of surgery. They compared music therapy with standard care as well as other non-drug interventions, such as massage and relaxation techniques.

Analysis of data from 72 trials revealed that patients were significantly less anxious after surgery and reported significantly more satisfaction after listening to music. They also needed less pain medication and reported significantly less pain compared with controls.

Listening to music at any time seemed effective, although there was a trend for better outcomes if patients listened to music before surgery rather than during or after. Further, when patients selected their own music there was a slightly greater (but statistically non-significant) reduction in pain and use of pain relief.

Surprisingly, even listening to music while under general anaesthesia reduced patients’ levels of pain, although the effects were greater when patients were conscious. However, music did not seem to reduce length of hospital stay.

“More than 51 million operations are performed every year in the U.S. and around 4.6 million in England. Music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery,” said Meads.

“Patients should be allowed to choose the type of music they would like to hear to maximize the benefit to their well-being. However, care needs to be taken that music does not interfere with the medical team’s communication.”

Source: The Lancet

Patient listening to music photo by shutterstock.

Music Eases Pain, Anxiety for Surgery Patients

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Music Eases Pain, Anxiety for Surgery Patients. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 15 Aug 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.