Most of our clients are in extreme (and often chronic) pain and would prefer not to get addicted to narcotic pain medications. Below is a summary of a recent report that aired on NPR from our summer intern, Sophie Frostbaum:
Often times, when we are feeling sad, we reach over to grab our I-Pod, put on a playlist of our favorite songs, and the power of music has successfully eased our pain. Of course, music can make us feel better emotionally, but is it true that music can make us feel better physically? No, I am not talking about a Kanye West song pumping you up before an intensive workout; I’m talking about literally easing your physical pain!
It all began with Sunitha Suresh, a college student at the time. She put her grandmother’s favorite south Indian classical Carnatic music on an I-Pod, after she had just endured an intensive surgery. Her grandmother’s surgery placed her in intensive care, along with three other patients, meaning her family could not always be by her side; however, she always had the music. Suresh watched as the music created a cathartic effect on her grandmother; she noticed less anxiety felt by her grandmother, which brought her to wonder if her grandmother was, perhaps, also feeling less pain.
Suresh, majoring in biomedical engineering at Northwestern University, decided to pair up with her father Santhanam Suresh, who is a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at the school, in conducting a study to see if music does in fact ease physical pain. Since Dr. Suresh works with children, they studied on sixty pediatric patients between ages 9 and 14, all who were undergoing strenuous operations that would cause them to stay in the hospital for a few days at the minimum. After surgery, the children received narcotics to control their pain, and then they were split into three groups; one group listened to music of their choice, the second group listened to an audio book of their choice, and their third group simply listened to silence, wearing noise cancelling headphones, all of these lasting for thirty minutes.
As a measurement of pain, the researchers used the Faces Pain Scale, which showed different faces ranging from smiling to frowning. The children pointed to a face that depicted their pain level prior to the audio therapy, and then once again after the audio therapy was completed.
The results? After a 30-minute session, the children who listened to music, or an audio book had a pain level drop of an entire point! This may not sound like much, but analytically, that is an entire ten percent less pain, which is equivalent to taking an over-the-counter pain medicine such as Tylenol or Advil. This phenomenal discovery may lead to a decrease in pain medicine that doctors prescribe their pediatric patients. Children, being smaller and suffering more side effects from pain medicines may not have to go through as much trouble if these findings continue to grow. What is next on the list for these researchers? They plan to see if music can decrease pain levels, once arriving home from the hospital. So parents, next time your child says they have a headache and can’t go to school, make sure to plug in their favorite tunes!
Neighmond, Patti. “To Ease Pain, Reach For Your Playlist Instead Of Popping A Pill.” NPR. NPR, 22 June 2015. Web. 23 June 2015.