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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