Music in Managing Pain

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP


June 13, 2013

In This Article


This study had several limitations. First, although 400 patients were referred for potential inclusion, only one half agreed to participate, suggesting that the final sample may have consisted of individuals inherently predisposed to a musical intervention. In addition, although the researchers did a good job of blinding the clinical nurse specialist who conducted the pre- and postintervention assessments, obviously the patients themselves were not blinded. Because 2 of the 3 assessment scales use patient report, patients' knowledge of their group assignment may have affected their own self-assessment.

This study does add to a growing body of evidence that music can be an effective component of pain management. Unlike many studies of music therapy, which used patient-preferred music, this intervention used the same music in all patients, suggesting that music chosen specifically to be soothing irrespective of patient preference may be effective. Although the music was more effective at relieving pain than the relaxation exercises alone, both groups experienced pain relief.

The investigators suggest that acknowledging a patient's pain and encouraging relaxation -- particularly if accompanied by environmental adjustments, such as dimming lights and diminishing noise -- are important adjuncts to pain management. Although that conclusion is not going to be a surprise to nurses, who have long incorporated therapeutic communication into their care of patients in pain, this study is a valuable reminder of its importance and the need to include these practices in the nursing art of helping patients to manage the unique experience of pain.



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