Music to reduce pain?

  • by Valerie

    Wednesday, 30 October, 2013 - 14:45

Study with 37 children showing postive effects

A study is taking place at Great Ormond Street Hospital to establish effects of music on young children in hospital, as it was reported on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday 29 October.

This report doesn’t give in-depth research findings since they still seem to be at the beginning of the study, but I still wanted to share this because, in addition to talking about improving the young patients well-being while being in hospital, the findings suggest that music actually lessens the pain experienced. That music might be having such a physical effect on these children is remarkable and I’m curious to find out more.

Would anyone here know more about this topic, or maybe have first-hand experienced in this field of work?

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Mark Harmer's picture

Hi Valerie,

The abstract and full articles are available here:

I'm just having a look at the full-text article, and they use the CHEOPS scale (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Pain Scale) to assess pain before and after the different interventions (music / reading / no interaction). I don't know enough about statistics to be able to say how significant the pain reduction is, but they themselves say the music session resulted in a "significant decrease".

They used oxygen saturation, heartrate and CHEOPS together with a survey asking about comfort, distress, anxiety, and how helpful it was to the caregivers, and these questions were asked of parents and of hospital staff.

There are many papers now which confirm the effect of music, and it's a popular subject (it also made the front page of the "Times" today - 30th October 2013), but I would still love to see more being investigated from the musician's expertise, as I believe there is something significant about music which sets it apart from speech. This significance is in the sound of live vs recorded music (there is one recent paper which strongly supports live music as more effective than recorded) and in the music itself.

What I do know is that it totally changes the atmosphere in a hospital!

Valerie's picture

Thank you for sharing this link, Mark!

It is so valuable that studies like this are done and published. People who are involved in music know from experience that it makes a difference, but to have evidence makes the case for music so much stronger.