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A Study Finds Music Throughout Surgery May Lessen Pain and Anxiety

Listening to your favorite tunes before, during, or after surgery may be beneficial to recovery. A study published in the British Journal of Surgery found that music intervention reduced the pain and anxiety related to invasive procedures.

Generally, adding music caused lower pain and anxiety compared to controls, finding an average of 21% decrease in anxiety and 10% pain. Music interventions were either before surgery (preoperative), during an operation, or after surgery (postoperative).

The authors pooled data from various studies from 1980 to 2016 of invasive surgeries, such as abdominal or knee surgeries. They reported nearly 7,400 patients over ninety-two trials, considering the type of anesthesia used and incorporation of music.

Subtle differences also showed the effectiveness of music and timing. An analysis of patient’s perceptions found that adding music reduced anxiety more prior to the operation, while higher pain reduction occurred after the surgery. Per the authors:

“As preoperative anxiety is associated with postoperative pain, pain reduction noted after preoperative music interventions might be the result of decreased anxiety.”

The authors admit that the music used in studies was often slow, soft, and soothing, but that doesn’t mean these findings restrict to one type of music. The study also suggests that individual music preference may play an important role in the effect of music intervention. The effects were also slightly more present when patients chose music from a list provided. However, the small number of studies that investigated music chosen by the participant over the investigator makes it “hard to draw definite conclusions about the importance of individual preferences.”

“Besides individual music preference, specific features of the music intervention such as rhythm and harmony, and the use of specific instruments like string instruments, also seem important features in anxiety and pain reduction,” write the authors. They also mention a placebo effect can’t be ruled out.

In a news release, the study’s lead author, Dr. Rosalie Kühlmann, says this conclusion “makes it now possible to create guidelines for the implementation of music interventions around surgical procedures.” It’s estimated by the WHO that 266-360 million patients undergo surgical procedures per year.

What kind of music would you listen to during a surgical procedure? Have you had experiences with music intervention? Let us know in the comments!


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