The modified saying Music soothes the savage beast may have new applications in the modern world of medicine. New research suggests that music may help some children experience less discomfort when dealing with low level or moderate pain.
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have found additional evidence that suggest music decreases people'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.
During the research phase, some of the children listened to music while getting an IV, while others did not. The team noted that the children in the music group had less pain than the children in the other group after certain procedures.
Researchers measured the children's distress, perceived pain levels, and heart rates.
They also measured the satisfaction levels of parents, and the satisfaction levels of the healthcare providers who administered the IVs.
"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."
Researchers noted 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.
In 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.
The mood of the music, whether it contained lyrics and whether it was familiar to the child also played an important role in how helpful the music intervention was.
"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."
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, the researchers said.
On a more practical daily basis, next time your little one needs a shot or has to undergo something uncomfortable, it might be worth a try to crank up his or her favorite song to see of it relieve some of the pain and anxiety.
You never know, it may just help.