Music decreases perceived pain for kids in pediatric ER


July 16, 2013
Brain & Behavior, Health

Newly published findings by medical researchers at the University of Alberta provide more evidence that music decreases children’s perceived sense of pain.

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Lisa Hartling led the research team that involved her colleagues from the Department of Pediatrics, as well as fellow researchers from the University of Manitoba and the United States. Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Pediatrics today.

The team conducted a clinical research trial of 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. Some of the children 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, and satisfaction levels of health-care providers who administered the IVs. The trial took place between January 2009 and March 2010.

“We did find a difference in the children’s reported pain – the children in the music group had less pain immediately after the procedure,” says 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.”

The research showed that the children who listened to music reported significantly less pain, some demonstrated significantly less distress, and the children’s parents were more satisfied with care.

Music decreases perceived pain for kids in pediatric ERIn the music listening group, 76 per cent of health-care providers said the IVs were very easy to administer – a markedly higher number than the non-music group where only 38 per cent of health-care providers said the procedure was very easy. Researchers also noticed that the children who had been born premature experienced more distress overall.

Hartling and her team hope to continue their research in this area, to see if music or other distractions can make a big difference for kids undergoing other painful medical procedures. The pain and distress from medical procedures can have “long-lasting negative effects” for children, note the researchers.

“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.”

The study noted that previous research has shown that the mood of the music, whether it has lyrics, and whether it is familiar to the listener could have an impact on pain perception as well.


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One Response to Music decreases perceived pain for kids in pediatric ER

  1. Helene Biemond May 3, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    This field of research shows great promise, both as an alternative treatment of discomfort but also in the sense of isolating the part of the brain that deals with pain to find out how the auditory regions of the brain connect with this part.

    A few questions:

    What kind of music was played?
    Will the effect be the same on teenagers and adults?

    Another instance mentioned that I believe would be interesting to research is why prematurely born children experience more distress overall, and then furthermore how music will effect these children as opposed to full term children.

    14021758

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