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Music Eases Cancer Pain

musical notesListening to just thirty minutes of music significantly reduced pain and distress for cancer patients.

The patients were receiving medication, but still had pain.

Music reduced pain scores by more than 50 percent for almost half of them compared to fewer than 1 in 10 similar patients who just rested in bed.

Nurses randomly assigned Taiwanese patients to listen to their choice of music for 30 minutes or to rest without music.  They measured pain at the beginning and end of the time using a visual scale.

42 percent who listened to music had their pain scores fall by 50 percent or more, compared to 8 percent of those who merely rested.  A statistical test showed a large effect of the music for both changes in the sensation of pain and changes in the distress patients felt.

Patient had their choice of folk songs, Buddhist hymns , or American harp and piano music.  Although 7 out of 10 chose the Taiwanese music, the American music was also enjoyed and effective.

Writing in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, lead author Shih-Tzu Huang said,

Offering a choice of familiar, culturally appropriate music was a key element of the intervention.  Soft music was safe, effective, and liked by participants. It provided greater relief of cancer pain than analgesics alone. Thus nurses should offer calming, familiar music to supplement analgesic medication for persons with cancer pain.

SOURCEHuang et al, International Journal of Nursing Studies, Volume 47, Number 11, November 2010.

What This Means for Patients

Sometimes the simple things that we do intuitively prove to be effective scientifically.

In this study music was not offered instead of medication, but in addition to it.

Patients also got to choose the music that they liked from culturally appropriate choices.

This simple method may help cancer patients both in the hospital and at home.

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