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Amorah LOVES music. She grinned from ear to ear as she rattled off her favorite up and coming pop stars including Justin Bieber, Hannah Montana, and Selena Gomez. We at The Monday Life are much too old to recognize these artists, but if we did hypothetically download Justin Bieber’s breath-taking “My World 2.0″ album or dance around during our lunch break to Selena Gomez’s hit single “Shake It Up”, I’m sure we would be just as excited to talk about them. This is getting us EXCITED! But that’s beside the point. Amorah loves to play music…she loves to make music…she loves to dance to music. But how is she supposed to sing and dance when she’s stuck in a hospital room that doesn’t provide the means necessary to do so? That’s a problem…

So here’s what we’re going to do about it:

We’re going to provide children’s hospitals with MUSIC. And no, that doesn’t mean providing them with iTunes gift cards. It means hiring certified music therapists to spend time with the kids, learn their favorite songs and teach them how to play them, dance with them, laugh with them…It means making sure that every hospital room is equipped with a radio, or a noise machine, so that the little ones can sleep soundly listening to their favorite lullaby. It means giving Amorah the opportunity to sing and dance whether she’s in a hospital or not. By the time we’re done providing these kids with MUSIC, they’ll have record labels banging down the hospital doors looking for the next pop superstar.

Why Music Therapy Matters (the science)

Music therapy is the incorporation of music, whether through a trained therapist or technology, for the benefit of patients. It has historically been used to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation in the hospital setting (Barrera, et al., 2002). Music has proven therapeutic effectiveness in psychiatry, obstetrics, and pediatrics, promoting well-being, controlling pain, and neutralizing negative emotions (Shabanloei, et al., 2010; Conrad, et al., 2007).

Music has been demonstrated in the literature to reduce pain and anxiety in patients by as much as 50% (Nguyen, et al., 2010). Some studies have investigated the physiological mechanism explaining music’s beneficial effects. ACTH, DHEA, epinephrine, and IL-6 concentrations are all surrogate markers for healing that have been demonstrated to be significantly improved with music, specifically Mozart (Conrad, et al., 2007). IL-6, for example, is a cytokine that activates the adrenocortical and sympathoadrenal axes, which play an integral role in stress reduction (Conrad, et al., 2007). Such positive impacts of music on physiological mechanisms provide opportunities for adjunct healing.

In addition to easing pain and anxiety, music can be used as an avenue to distract patients, supported by the gate control theory of pain (Klassen, et al., 2008). Strongly supported in the literature, this theory purports that certain pain receptors (small diameter, slow conducting) are decreased or blocked with stimulation of large-diameter sensory fibers (Klassen, et al., 2008; Ferguson, 2004; Prensner, et al., 2001). For example, one study found that patients listening to music have decreased anxiety following heart attacks (Ferguson, 2004).

Engaging hospitalized children with interactive music therapy allows for emotional and physical comfort (Barrera, et al., 2002). Ninety-three percent of pediatric patients undergoing invasive procedures preferred music therapy during their next procedure (Aitken, et al., 2002). With the additional benefit of reducing the burden of pharmacotherapy, such as narcotics, on pediatric patients, the use of music therapy in the hospital setting is beneficial and widely desired by the population (Conrad, et al., 2007).

Conclusion:  Music therapy has many proven benefits in the hospital environment and has an important role for the healing of pediatric patients.

Contributing Authors: Oren J Mechanic and Marley E Burns

Last Revised January 13, 2012.


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Ferguson S. Burn pain and anxiety: the use of music relaxation during rehabilitation. American Burn Association. 2004;25(8):8-14.

Klassen JA, Liang Y, Tjosvold L, Klassen TP, Hartling L. Music for pain and anxiety in children undergoing medical procedures: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ambulatory Pediatrics. 2008;8:117-128.

Nguyen TN, Nilsson S, Hellstrom AL, Bengston A. Music therapy to reduce pain and anxiety in children with cancer undergoing lumbar puncture: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Pediatric Oncology. 2010;27(3),146-155.

Prensner JD, Yowler CJ, Smith LF, Steele AL, Fratianne RB. Music therapy for assistance with pain and anxiety management in burn treatment. J Burn Care Rehabil. 2001;22:83-88.

Shabanloei R, Golchin M, Esfahani A, Dolatkhah R, Rasoulian M. Effects of music therapy on pain and anxiety in patients undergoing bone marrow biopsy and aspiration. AORN. 2010;91:746-751.

Tan X, Yowler C, Super D, Fratianne R. The efficacy of music therapy protocols for decreasing pain, anxiety, and muscle tension levels during burn dressing changes: a prospective randomized crossover trial. J Burn Care Res. 2010;31:590-597.

Whitehead-Pleaux A, Baryza M, Sheridan R. The effects of music therapy on pediatric patients’ pain and anxiety during donor site dressing change. American Music Therapy Association. 2006;43(2):136-153.