Archive for July, 2015

Music can control pain


Studies show that listening to preferred music can significantly reduce pain.

A newly published study of music and postoperative pain in children by Sunitha Suresh et al randomly assigned them to music of choice (from a provided list), audiobook of choice (from a provided list) or silence control.[1]

The researchers found that 30” of music or audiobooks reduced pain to the same degree as administration of Advil or Tylenol, without the risk of side effects.

Self-selection of music or audiobook is an important element in pain management. Mitchell and MacDonald showed that patient-preferred music led to greater tolerance for laboratory-induced pain, reported pain intensity and perceived control over pain than relaxing music selected by the researchers. [2]

According to Judith Pinkerton, music therapist and past president of the Western Region American Music Therapy Association, for self-management of physical pain, listening to familiar soothing music to which you already have a strong conditioned relaxation response is the most effective method.[3]

A recent randomized, controlled trial by Hsieh et al found that the strength of preferred music in reducing pain can even override experimenter suggestions to the contrary.[4]  Perhaps it is because listening to music that you like stimulates the same reward center of the brain that is activated by euphoria-inducing stimuli, like sex, drugs and chocolate.[5]

A systematic review by Nilsson of 42 randomized controlled trials involving the use of music to reduce pain associated with elective surgery, totaling 3,936 patients, concluded that music interventions in clinical practice should include the following components:[6]

  • Slow and flowing music, approximately 60 to 80 beats per minute
  • Nonlyrical
  • Maximum volume level at 60 dB
  • Patient’s own choice, with guidance
  • Suitable equipment chosen for the specific situation
  • A minimum duration of 30 minutes in length
  • Measurement, follow up, and documentation of the effects

[1] Sunitha Suresh BS, De Oliveira GS, and Suresh S.  The effect of audio therapy to treat postoperative pain in children undergoing major surgery: a randomized controlled trial.  Pediatric Surgery International, 2015 31:197-201.

[2] Mitchell LA and MacDonald RA. An experimental investigation of the effects of preferred and relaxing music listening on pain perception. Journal of Music Therapy, 2006; 43(4):295-316.

[3] Pinkerton J.  The Sound of Healing.  Las Vegas: SeminarConcerts International, Inc., 1996.

[4] Hsieh C, Kong J, Kirsch I, Edwards RR, Jensen KB, et al.  Well-loved music robustly relieves pain: a randomized, controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9(9): e107390. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107390.

[5] Blood A and Zatorre RJ. Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2001; 98(20):11818-23.

[6] Nilsson U.  The anxiety- and pain-reducing effects of music interventions: a systematic review. AORN Journal, 2008; 87(4):780-807.

A moment of creativity and meaning

This delightful message by Arthur Hull, father of the modern day drum circle, shows how we can bring creativity and meaning to even the most mundane of moments – as he transforms a family’s experience in an airport line and helps those around him to rediscover the rhythmical spirit that naturally flows through us as children.

Hello my friends,

…So many of my spontaneous rhythm experiences have been with bored kids doing what they naturally do to pass the time while their patients are getting them from one place to the next…

…I am waiting in the usual airport rope line to go through security to get to the flight gates. It is the kind of airport rope line line that weaves back and forth in order to put the most people in the smallest amount of space. Your always facing two lines of people until you get to the front of the line. One line of people facing are in line behind you, and other line is facing you in the line that is in front of you. A lot of people queued up in a small space.

There is a family of four in line in front of me.

Each of the two boys in this family are seated next to each other in upscale 3 wheeled baby buggies. The father in front dragging the hand held luggage and the mother is behind the boys pushing both baby buggies. I’m behind the Mother.

The oldest boy, 3 or 4 years old, has a plastic fork in one hand and a plastic spoon in the other.  He is beating the butt of their plastic handles down on the buggy tray in front of him, making nice rhythmical sound. (It is a nice sound to me anyway.)

It went like this:

Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •   Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •  ……

His little brother is sitting next to him, with one hand formed into a finger gun pointed at his brother, while making rhythmical gun sounds as he shot his brother.

“Bam” goes the imaginary gun.

What is amazing to me, ( and probably not conscious to the brothers), is they are in perfect sound/rhythm entrainment;

It sounds like this;

Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •   Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •  ……
Bam                      Bam                        Bam                      Bam                       ……

It seemed that no one else but the mother is being irritated by their rhythmical interaction. So before she could stop them, I vocally joined in with a rhythmical syncopated “Peek”.  I did to softly at first, so as to not surprise the boys or disturb their rhythm.

I am closer to the mom than the boys so she picked up that I had joined the boys rhythm ensemble.

I believe that her mothering radar was on, and I am sure that she only hears that her boys might be disturbing the other people in the lines around them. She does not hear the “Sound entrainment” that they are creating, until, that is, I Join in.

Now our rhythm ensemble sounds like this:

Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •   Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum   •  …… Older Boy
Bam                      Bam                        Bam                      Bam                    •  …… Younger Brother
Peek                       Peek                      Peek                       Peek         •  …… Arthur Elf

Hearing my contribution to the boys rhythm I see that she understands what is happening and literally steps back to make room to let it happen.

I am not sure if the boys ever really heard my sound contribution, but it was a lot of fun. Our interned rhythm lasted over one and a half minutes before the younger brother got tired of shooting his older brother. But until he stopped, he never got out of sync with his brother, even on his last “Bam”.

After the younger stopped Bamming, I stopped Peeking.  At the end of the next rhythm cycle, the mother stopped the older brother’s DaDumming by taking away his plastic cutlery.

A small group of people in the lines surrounding us, gives us a quiet round of applause.

And then we all go back to being travelers in an airport security line.

Life is a dance….