Music may ease kids’ post-surgery pain

Music may ease kids’ post-surgery pain

Do you remember skinning your knee as a kid? Did your mom sing to you as she dabbed antiseptic on your boo-boo?

If her soothing lullaby eased your discomfort, it wasn’t because of its healing properties. No, it was because mom’s gentle voice took your mind off the pain long enough to get beyond the worst of it.

That concept – that music can help reduce the perception of pain – is at the heart of a recent study by Northwestern University researchers who evaluated the post-surgical pain of patients at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. They divided the youngsters into three groups; one heard 30 minutes of music of their choice, another heard 30 minutes of audio stories and another heard 30 minutes of silence. Then the kids reported their pain by pointing to images such as a happy face or a grimace.

The study found that the children who listened to music or audiobooks reported feeling less post-surgery pain than the ones who received no audio therapy.

The findings don’t surprise Dr. Anna Craioveanu, who practices family medicine at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.

“Music and short stories are great distractions for children dealing with pain,” she says. “It seems that it helps them focus on things other than the pain they are going through. Instead of thinking about their medical issues, it allows them to focus on things they enjoy.”

She added that looking at alternatives to controlling children’s pain after surgery is important because of all the potential side effects of current medication therapy. Certain medicinces commonly used to control pain after surgery can cause breathing problems in children.

Dr. Santhanam Suresh, the study’s senior author, said in a Northwestern University article that audio therapy should be considered by hospitals as an important strategy to minimize pain in children undergoing surgery. And, unlike drug therapy, it is “inexpensive and doesn’t have side effects,” he said.

The study was reported in the January issue of Pediatric Surgery International.


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  1. Lynn Hutley

    Soothing music can be a welcome distraction for anyone, any age.

  2. My son, who is now 5, was born with a congenital heart defect, TGA. He has always been very involved in music. When he was hospitalized for 1 month after his surgery, we played music for him all the time. Any connection for that?

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About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.