Can music be a painkiller??

Nearly every day, someone contacts me who is about to go to the hospital for a procedure of some kind. Most of these people are preparing to have surgery and have questions about how they can use music for the procedure.  Patients wonder, can music be a painkiller?  Pain is one of the many issues they are worried about, in addition to side-effects of anesthesia, side-effects of the surgical incision, and of course, fear that the surgery will not be successful.  As a therapist and a Music Medicine practitioner, I do everything I can to reassure patients with calm and affirming information and education about the process.  Music, however, is one of the easiest and safest ways to calm a patient, before, during and after surgery.

This week, NPR presented some new research on the use of music as a painkiller in the hospital.  Of course I was thrilled to see this, but I’ve taken it a step further!  Instead of putting music into the patient intravenously (which of course is impossible, but a makes for a cute picture!), most people give the patient an iPod or other wired MP3 device.  What we have done is to actually put the music INSIDE the headphones which allows the patient to listen with no cord attached to headphones, risking entanglement with IV, blood pressure cuff, or nurse call apparatus and bed movement control button!

As a clinical musicologist, I have spent the past 25 years of my career studying the anxiety and fear people experience prior to and after surgery.  Every day, people postpone or even cancel their much-needed surgery because they are so convinced that they won’t survive the procedure or the anesthesia. Now patients can buy our very successful, pre-loaded headphones and begin to relax to this music for weeks in advance if they want to!  See

If I knew how to reach the people at #NPR, I would love to enlighten them!

In the meantime, suffice it to say, that if you’re experiencing pain from any part of your body, reach for some of your favorite soothing music!  You’ll be glad you did!!

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