Study Finds Music Makes Surgery Less Miserable


I’m having vivid flashbacks to when 16-year-old me was sitting in the dentist’s chair, anxiously awaiting the arrival of my surgeon who would proceed to make my mouth into a hamburger. He gave me the option to be sedated, but since I was soooo edgy, I opted for local anesthesia, because who needs to be put under for oral surgery?

Ok then. Headphones in, creepily sterile office out. Megadeth’s Rust in Peace was the soundtrack to my operation, and let me tell you: “Holy Wars” was the perfect track to accompany the grinding pressure on my teeth and the smell of burning flesh. It made for an oddly serene, almost euphoric experience.

So maybe that’s half bullshit, but the point still stands that listening to music during surgery can be… interesting. And now there’s even research from the British Journal of Surgery to back up the claim that music can lower anxiety and pain during medical procedures. Researchers have studied over 7,000 patients between 1980 and 2016, and the conclusions were the same no matter the age or gender of the patient, the type of surgery, or the genre of music.

Here’s a summary from Gizmodo:

“Altogether, they found that playing music was associated with lower anxiety and pain ratings, regardless of the type of surgery performed, the age or gender of the patient, and when the music was actually played. Compared to controls, there was an average 21-point decrease in anxiety on a 1 to 100 scale, and a 10-point decrease in pain. The drops were even more profound when patients’ baseline pain and anxiety ratings were compared to their ratings after listening to some sick beats.

“The effect on anxiety was greatest when the music was played before the operation, for instance, while for pain, the largest decreases were instead seen when playing music afterward. There was also a slightly better effect when music chosen by the patients was used, though the small number of studies that explored that aspect makes it hard to be sure.

“’Besides individual music preference, specific features of the music intervention such as rhythm and harmony, and the use of specific instruments like string instruments, also seem important features in anxiety and pain reduction,’ the authors write.

“It’s likely that at least some, if not much, of the pain- and anxiety-killing solace music offers is a placebo effect, albeit one that can be harnessed for good. Patients might have also been too distracted by the music to think about their pain or stress. But that can’t be the entire picture, the authors say, since even music played during surgeries where patients were completely knocked out seemed to be associated with pain relief.”

TL;DR: On a scale of 1 to 100, music took anxiety down about 21 points and pain down 10 points. It seems there may be some musical features that have a greater calming effect including the rhythm of the music and which instruments are used. The only possible conclusion here is that blast beats and sick riffs are soon to be implemented as tranquilizers in medical centers across the world.

[via Ultimate Guitar]

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