Music not only soothes the savage beast. New research involving children at the University of Alberta suggests music can also decrease our perceptions of pain and ease discomfort.
The findings, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, indicate children who listened to music while being treated in the pediatric emergency department of an Edmonton hospital reported significantly less pain, and less distress, than those who did not. What’s more, the children's parents reported greater levels of satisfaction with their kids’ care.
Lead researcher Lisa Hartling and colleagues based their conclusions on clinical research involving 42 children between the ages of 3 and 11 who came to the pediatric emergency department at the Stollery Children's Hospital and needed IVs in 2009 and 2010. Some listened to music while getting an IV, while others did not.
Researchers measured the children's distress, perceived pain levels, and heart rates, as well as satisfaction levels of parents. The results showed that the children who listened to music reported significantly less pain and distress than the others; their parents were also happier with their care.
What’s more, 76 percent of healthcare providers said the IVs were very easy to administer to children listening to music — twice as many as those treating the non-music group.
"We did find a difference in the children's reported pain — the children in the music group had less pain immediately after the procedure," said Hartling. "The finding is clinically important and it's a simple intervention that can make a big difference. Playing music for kids during painful medical procedures would be an inexpensive and easy-to-use intervention in clinical settings."
Hartling and her team are now studying whether music or other distractions can make a big difference for kids undergoing other painful medical procedures.
"There is growing scientific evidence showing that the brain responds to music and different types of music in very specific ways," said Hartling. "So additional research into how and why music may be a better distraction from pain could help advance this field."
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