Forget morphine, listening to music during surgery can reduce your pain

“In the operations we observed, dance music and drum and bass were often played fairly loudly, whilst patients were anesthetized”, Sharon-Marie Weldon from the cancer and surgery department at Imperial College London and her team said.


Scientists pooled the results of 73 separate trials looking at the effect music had on nearly 7,000 patients.

“Music is a non-invasive, safe and cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery”. The Huffington Post also reported that studies show how music helps the body consume oxygen more efficiently while exercising.

Recently, Livescience reported that music has a positive effect on those who struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Even listening to music while under general anesthesia reduced patients’ levels of pain after surgery, but not as much as when patients were conscious during surgery, the findings showed.

According to the authors of this latest study – led by Dr. Catharine Meads from Brunel University in the UK – music has been used to improve patients’ hospital experience for decades, with Florence Nightingale even adopting the practice.

But the recommendation of music during surgery should not interfere with the medical team’s communication, Meads said. The best outcomes were when music was played before, rather than after an operation.

They said that music had still been effective even when the patients had gone through general anesthetic. “We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health-care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics”, Daniel Levitin, a psychologist who wrote the book This Is Your Brain On Music, has said.

She said the type of music probably depended on the patient enjoyed and found soothing, be it Chinese, classical or easy listening, but warned it should be listened to low and on headphones so it did not annoy the patient in the next bed.

Hazim Sadideen, a plastic surgeon from University Hospitals Birmingham who has also researched the role of music, said the study was comprehensive.

Most people undergo a surgical procedure at some point in their lives. “However, it’s taken pulling together all the small studies… into one robust meta-analysis to really prove it works”.


Based on these findings, Dr. Meads told Medical News Today that music should be incorporated into therapeutic interventions for hospital patients, noting that “if it was a drug with this effect, it would be marketable”. Patients will submit their music playlist on a device of their choice, and this will be connected to a pillow with inbuilt loudspeakers.