Music Can Help Relieve Pain

Hospitals employ many therapeutic methods. In addition to medication, there are interventions like massage therapy and hypnosis. Music therapy is also growing in popularity. Sandra Siedliecki is a Senior Scientist at the Nursing Institute of Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. She says music is a low cost treatment.

“There’s a couple of reasons for music. One - it’s very inexpensive.”

And she says scientists have done a lot of research on music’s effect on pain.

“Especially, Dr. Marian Good who did an awful lot on acute pain and music. She did a lot of studies looking at abdominal surgery patients and the use of music.”

In those studies, as in many others, patients listened to relaxing music like this.

Dr. Good found that her surgery patients took fewer pain drugs when they listened to music. Dr. Siedliecki says taking fewer drugs is helpful because the side effects linked to pain medicines can outweigh their value.

“You get to the point where one more pill and the side effects aren’t quite worth it.”

Dr. Good’s study looked at short-term pain. However, chronic pain, the kind that just will not go away, is also a common problem.

“People with chronic pain feel powerless. They’ve already tried everything. There’s no choices left, so they feel powerless to do anything that’s going to make it better.”

Dr. Siedliecki was looking at ways to treat that sense of powerlessness, as well as patients’ depression, disability, and pain.

Dr. Linda Chlan was studying something else. She was not interested in patients’ pain, but instead their anxiety or extreme worry.

Dr. Chlan is a Professor of Symptom Management Research in the Nursing School at Ohio State University. She has spent a lot of time with people who are in the hospital because their anxiety is so great that they cannot breathe. People with this condition often have to use breathing machines. Dr. Chlan says that sometimes medication does little to ease their condition.

“I was always struck by the profound distress that these patients experience regardless of the amount of medications that we gave them.”

It was not just that the medicines did not work. Sometimes they made things worse.

“Sometimes they would get more anxious and more anxious.”

And just as in the case of Dr. Siedliecki’s pain patients, the drugs the anxiety patients were taking have unwanted side effects.

“We had two primary aims of this study: To reduce anxiety as well as sedative exposure. If they can control a non-pharmacological intervention in the form of relaxing, preferred music, can that have a beneficial effect?”

Dr. Chlan had nurses remind patients that music was another choice to ease their symptoms. They also placed signs near the patients’ beds.

“Listen to your music at least twice today.”

Another group in Dr. Chlan’s study used noise-cancelling headphones with no music. A third group received standard care.

Dr. Siedliecki’s study also had three groups. One group listened to music from past studies. Another group was able to pick its own music. The third group received traditional treatment. Dr. Siedliecki says the results were positive in both studies.

“When you look at it overall, power, pain, depression and disability as a group improved in the music groups.”

Dr. Chlan’s study looked to decrease the intensity of the drugs people had to take and how often they took them. She also found that music worked.

The people who listened to music needed fewer doses and had a 36 percent reduction in the intensity or the amount of medication they received. In addition, their anxiety decreased by about 36 percent. Both doctors had similar explanations for why music was so successful.

“Music operates on many levels. It can be a very powerful distractor in the brain, where we’re listening to something that is pleasing and then it interrupts stressful thoughts.”

“Music can be a distraction. And if you’re doing something you enjoy, time seems to go by faster.”

These doctors seem to agree with a line from the old Bob Marley song, “Trenchtown Rock.” It says “one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

You are listening to As It Is from VOA Learning English. I’m June Simms.

 

 

 

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