Music Therapy Can Help Ease Post-Surgical Pain in Spine Patients

Music therapy is better able to ease post-surgical pain in patients with spinal disorders than standard postoperative care alone, according to a new study conducted by the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine and the Mount Sinai Department of Orthopaedics.

The patients (aged 40 to 55 years) were undergoing anterior, posterior, or anterior-posterior spinal fusion.

“This study is unique in its quest to integrate music therapy in medicine to treat post-surgical pain,” said Dr. John Mondanaro, the study’s lead author and clinical director of The Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy. “Postoperative spine patients are at major risk for pain management challenges.”

Postoperative pain treatment, which is mainly pharmacologic, is a vital component of recovery, particularly in the moments right after surgery, when pain and anxiety are significantly increased.

For the study, researchers provided 30 spine surgery patients with a 30-minute music therapy session within 72 hours after surgery in addition to standard care.

Music therapists from the Louis Armstrong Center provided treatment options to each patient, including patient-preferred, live music that supported tension release/relaxation and joint singing and/or rhythmic drumming. They also offered breathwork and visualization techniques.

Another 30 spine surgery patients received standard postoperative care without music therapy. The 60 patients ranged in age from 40 to 55 years and underwent anterior, posterior, or anterior-posterior spinal fusion.

The researchers measured patients’ pain levels using the visual analog scale (VAS) both before and after music therapy in the experimental group and within the same time period in the control group. The findings show that, in the control group, VAS pain levels increased slightly, from 5.20 to 5.87. In the experimental group, however, VAS pain levels decreased by more than one point, from 6.20 to 5.09.

“The degree of change in the music group is notable for having been achieved by non-pharmacologic means with little chance of adverse effects,” said Joanne Loewy, D.A., co-author of the study and director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine.

“Pain is subjective and personal, and warrants an individualized approach to care. Certified, licensed music therapists are able to tailor treatment to each patient’s musical preferences and meet their pain level.”

About 70 percent of people in the United States experience at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime, and more than 5 million are temporarily or permanently disabled by spinal disorders.

The findings are published in The American Journal of Orthopedics.

Source: Mount Sinai