Listen to Music Before Surgery | Natural Health Blog

Music’s Surgery Benefits

Music Health Benefits, Pre-surgery Techniques, Post-surgical Discomfort, Surgery Anxiety, Reduce Recovery Time

Listening to music prior to, during, and after undergoing a surgical procedure may diminish the patient’s pain and anxiety levels.

You are scheduled to have an operation and, needless to say, you are more than a little concerned. After all, even the most minor forms of surgery come with risks, potential for complications, and pain upon recovery. But now, new research suggests that there may be a way to calm your nerves as well as reduce post-surgical discomfort–and best of all, it has nothing to do with taking a pharmaceutical medication! The key to improving a patient’s surgical experience may be music.

The study, which was conducted at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom, found that listening to music prior to, during, and after undergoing a surgical procedure may diminish the patient’s pain and anxiety levels.1 Dreaper, Jane. “Music ‘reduces pain and anxiety’ for surgery patients.” BBC News. 13 August 2015. Accessed 19 August 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-33865448 The scientists analyzed the results of 72 research trials that involved a total of approximately 7,000 subjects having an operation. The researchers compared patients listening to music around their time of surgery with several other scenarios, including routine care by medical staff, undisturbed quiet time, use of headphones that did not play music, and white noise. The participants who were able to listen to music were determined to be better off in the areas of both feeling less anxious after the surgery and in requiring less pain medication than any of their peers also having a procedure. The impact was even a little greater when the patient was able to select his or her own tunes.

Interestingly, even in those cases in which music was only played during the operation and the patient was under general anesthesia and therefore not conscious, the music made a difference in reducing pain and stress. The only area in which music did not appear to have a noticeable effect was in shortening the duration of recovery time in the hospital after the surgery.

This is certainly not the first time we’ve mentioned the benefits of music, and we just blogged last week about a study at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston that found that surgeons who listen to their favorite music while operating on patients do the job faster and with more accuracy.2 Lies, Shelby R. and Zhang, Andrew Y. “Prospective Randomized Study of the Effect of Music on the Efficiency of Surgical Closures.” Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 10 July 2015. Accessed 20 August 2015. http://asj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/07/09/asj.sju161 And the majority of doctors reportedly do listen to music during surgery, which probably bodes well for patients–especially since we now know it helps the patients too, unless the surgeon’s using headphones.

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The current study is not the first to suggest that music may have a positive effect on anxiety prior to surgery, either. A 2013 study at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found that listening to music can quantifiably reduce preoperative anxiety without any of the side effects of sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs.3 Bradt, J.; et al. “Music interventions for preoperative anxiety.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 6 June 2013. Accessed 20 August 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23740695 Aside from corroborating these results, what the current research adds to the discussion is a comprehensive, large meta-analysis.

With all this in music’s favor, it would seem to be a no-brainer to start incorporating a nice stereo system into operating rooms everywhere. After all, it is a completely safe and harmless alternative to the use of drugs to achieve similar stress reduction and pain relief. One of the only potential issues with playing music during a procedure is the possibility, despite the study referenced in last week’s blog, of it affecting the surgical team’s performance. A 2015 study at Imperial College London in the U.K. found that music may be distracting to the surgeon or assistants and can lead to communication difficulties and request delays during procedures.4 Weldon, Sharon-Marie; et al. “Music and communication in the operating theatre.” Journal of Advanced Nursing. 4 August 2015. Accessed 20 August 2015. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jan.12744/abstract But less raucous music played at lower volumes would tend to mitigate that possibility.

If the music is played for all to hear, there is also the chance that what is perceived as soothing and relaxing to one person may be nails on a chalkboard to another. Let’s say the patient loves Mozart but the surgeon gets sleepy listening to classical music–that’s clearly not a good match. Alternatively, the patient may find heavy metal completely appealing, while the surgeon detests the loud noises and loses focus. Obviously, if it is going to be heard by everyone, the music must be predetermined and satisfactory for all involved. The only other option would be headphones on the patient, which might not work depending on the location of the surgery and how the patient would have to be positioned.

At any rate, even if the surgical team nixes the idea of music during surgery, patients should still seriously consider listening before and after the procedure. There are enough advantages with no downside to listening to music for the duration of your hospital stay…unless you get a particularly disagreeable roommate, that is.

References   [ + ]

1. Dreaper, Jane. “Music ‘reduces pain and anxiety’ for surgery patients.” BBC News. 13 August 2015. Accessed 19 August 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-33865448
2. Lies, Shelby R. and Zhang, Andrew Y. “Prospective Randomized Study of the Effect of Music on the Efficiency of Surgical Closures.” Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 10 July 2015. Accessed 20 August 2015. http://asj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/07/09/asj.sju161
3. Bradt, J.; et al. “Music interventions for preoperative anxiety.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 6 June 2013. Accessed 20 August 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23740695
4. Weldon, Sharon-Marie; et al. “Music and communication in the operating theatre.” Journal of Advanced Nursing. 4 August 2015. Accessed 20 August 2015. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jan.12744/abstract

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