Music can help ease pain and anxiety after surgery

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BBC News reports “listening to music before, during and after an operation can help to reduce pain.” Evidence from trials found that people who listen to music had reduced anxiety and were less likely to request pain relief.

Research carried out from Queen Mary University, Barts Health NHS Trust and Brunel University in London aimed to assess the effects of music before, during and after surgery in reducing pain and anxiety in postoperative patients. Researchers say that music was first found to be helpful to patients during operations in 1914, and there were reports that Florence Nightingale used music to improve her patients’ morale.

Researchers pooled data from 73 randomised control trials (RCTs), a total of 6902 patients, and looked at the effects of music in adult patients undergoing any form of surgical procedure. Research looked, not only at postoperative pain, but the need for painkillers, anxiety levels, infection rates, wound healing, costs, length of hospital stay and satisfaction with care. The types of music used in the studies were classical music, instrumental, relaxing or the patient’s own choice. Pain was measured by using a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) or Numerical Rating Scale (NRS). The type of research was systematic review, which is gathering all published evidence together on a particular topic, and meta-analysis involved pooling the data from many studies to find an overall result.

The pooled results of 45 randomised control trials show that music reduced postoperative pain with standardised mean difference (SMD) on the pain scale -0.77 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.99-0.56). Adding to this 16 studies found increased patient satisfaction with listening to music. Researchers were therefore able to conclude “music is a non-invasive, safe and inexpensive intervention that can be delivered easily and successfully in a hospital setting. We believe that sufficient research has been done to show that music should be available to all patients undergoing operative procedures”.

To conclude there is evidence that music can help to reduce postoperative pain, anxiety and the use of painkillers. Whilst the average differences on the pain and anxiety scales between the music and control groups were small, a larger more conducted randomised control trial (RCT) in the future could help strengthen these findings.


Written by Claire Collier

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