The Effects of Music on Pain

Numerous meta-analyses have been conducted on the topic of music and pain, with the latest comprehensive study published in 2006. Since that time, more than 70 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been published, necessitating a new and comprehensive review.

The aim of this meta-analysis was to examine published RCT studies investigating the effect of music on pain.

The present study included RCTs published between 1995 and 2014. Studies were obtained by searching 12 databases and hand-searching related journals and reference lists. Main outcomes were pain intensity, emotional distress from pain, vital signs, and amount of analgesic intake. Study quality was evaluated according to the Cochrane Collaboration guidelines.

Analysis of the 97 included studies revealed that music interventions had statistically significant effects in decreasing pain on 0–10 pain scales (MD = –1.13), other pain scales (SMD = –0.39), emotional distress from pain (MD = –10.83), anesthetic use (SMD = –0.56), opioid intake (SMD = –0.24), non-opioid intake (SMD = –0.54), heart rate (MD = –4.25), systolic blood pressure (MD = –3.34), diastolic blood pressure (MD = –1.18), and respiration rate (MD = –1.46). Subgroup and moderator analyses yielded additional clinically informative outcomes.

Considering all the possible benefits, music interventions may provide an effective complementary approach for the relief of acute, procedural, and cancer/chronic pain in the medical setting.

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP, 1994), pain is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” This definition implies that how one understands and uses the word “pain” is influenced by his or her multilayered physical, psychological, social, and cultural experiences associated with unpleasant stimuli or injuries from the past.

Pain can be classified as procedural, acute, or chronic (Allen, 2013). Procedural pain occurs when medical procedures result in tissue and/or nerve damage. Sharp and sudden pain not caused by medical procedures is called acute pain, which is often associated with a single treatable event of injury or illness that can usually be managed within seven days (American Society for Pain Management Nursing [ASPMN], 2010). Chronic pain, also known as persistent pain, lasts longer than the anticipated duration of healing (ASPMN, 2010), and occurs continuously or intermittently with or without a known cause. According to the American Pain Society (2006), cancer-related pain is classified as a type of chronic pain with further sub-classification.

Inclusion Criteria
Included trials were limited to randomized controlled trials (RCT) published between 1995 and 2014 in English, German, Korean, and Japanese. Studies from the past two decades were chosen, because clinical trials from more recent years are considered higher quality in their methodology and reporting style (Tsai et al., 2014). The language restriction was applied due to the limited resources available to the author.