Nurse, More Music Please

A little music played post-surgery may make patients' recovery time pass more pleasurably and less painfully.

By PT Staff, published November 1, 1999 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Surgeons often play music while in the operating room to make the time pass more pleasurably. And a little music played post-surgery may make patients' recovery time pass more pleasurably, as well.

Marion Good, assistant professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University, tested the effects of music and relaxation on 500 patients who had received similar surgical treatment. She split them into four recovery groups: one that learned a jaw relaxation technique, a second that listened to music, a third that tried both relaxation and music and a fourth group that did neither. The groups that listened to music heard 15 minutes of harp, piano, synthesizer, orchestra or jazz tapes each day after surgery. All patients had access to painkillers.

After just two days, all three groups using relaxation or music reported significantly less pain than the control group, which had relied only on medication. "These techniques offer more pain control," says Good. They not only alleviate anxiety and distract people from their pain, she explains, but are thought to influence the neurological processes that modulate the transmission of pain signals. But, warns Good, "I would never tell a patient not to use medication after surgery, to just use music or relaxation."