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Patients awaiting surgery feel less pain and anxiety with music pillow

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A&E patients awaiting urgent surgery are less anxious, more relaxed and experience less pain if they are given a special music pillow to rest on, a new study has found.

Lisa Antonsen, a nurse in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Odense University Hospital (Odense, Denmark), presented her findings at the European Emergency Medicine Congress.

Antonsen said that she found a statistically significant association between listening to music and patients’ reports of reduced pain and improved relaxation and wellbeing.

Antonsen, who carried out the research as part of her Master’s, said:

“When I first started in the emergency department, I noticed that patients waiting for acute surgery were often nervous and even anxious.

“I knew that music has been shown to have positive effects on pain, relaxation and wellbeing in other healthcare settings, but it has never been tested before with patients waiting for acute surgery.”

The nurse invited all patients waiting for urgent surgery in the  A&E department to take part in the study, enrolling 14 men and 16 women aged between 18 and 93 years.

Antonsen offered the patients a music pillow for 30 minutes as they waited.

The pillow contained a speaker with an MP3 player plugged into it, playing a MusiCure program of specially composed music.

Antonsen asked patients to rate their pain, relaxation and well-being on a visual scale ranging from 0 to 10 before and after using the music pillow.

After listening to music, 15 patients were interviewed about the experience, with their answers contributing to the qualitative part of the study.

Antonsen said:

“We found that while using the music pillow, the patients experienced a decrease in pain from an average score of 4.8 to 3.7.

“Their relaxation improved from an average of 4.6 to 7.6, and their feeling of general well-being increased from an average score of 4.3 to 6.6.

“The statistical results demonstrated a positive association between music and acute pre-operative patients’ self-reported pain, relaxation and general well-being.

“The patients described both physical and mental well-being while listening to the music.

“They felt relaxed and found themselves thinking about something other than the pain and the worries related to the surgery.

“Thus, the music session provided a break from the acute hospital environment.”

As the study was observational and the patients were not randomised to have a music pillow or not, it cannot establish that music pillow causes the improvements in pain, relaxation and well-being, only that there is an association.

Antonsen said:

“A larger study needs to be conducted to determine if music itself has an effect on pain, relaxation and general well-being.”

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