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Music in medicine reduces pain and anxiety

Music can help reduce anxiety and pain in hospitalized children. Children who listen to music when undergoing surgery experience less pain and anxiety than children who do not listen to music.

MuziekgeneeskundeResearcher Marianne van der Heijden will receive her PhD for her thesis Music in Medicine, the value of music interventions for hospitalized children on 7 November. Van der Heijden conducted her research within the Music as Medicine research group.

For many years now there have been indications that music has an effect on the brain; on anxiety, stress, and pain. Marianne van der Heijden, researcher at Erasmus MC’s Internal Medicine department, investigated the effects that listening to music had on various groups of hospitalized children. The groups studied by Van der Heijden were premature babies admitted to the neonatal ICU, children aged between 0 and 18 undergoing surgery, young children hospitalized for burns, and children from the age of three who undergo painful emergency care procedures.

Parent-child relationshiop
Hospitals are a stressful place for children, and especially for children with burns or other serious injuries on the emergency department. Children with burns are in extreme pain and very anxious while their wounds are being treated. Van der Heijden says: “In a large clinical study we examined the effects of live music therapy immediately after children with burns had their wounds treated. Older children indicated that they experienced less pain and anxiety. Live music therapy can play a beneficial role in the care of children with burns. Live music therapy for very young children can focus on the parent-child relationship.”

For the children on the emergency department the study investigated whether listening to music was more effective than watching a cartoon during a painful procedure. Children who listened to music were found to have significantly less pain during the procedure than children who watched a cartoon. Children undergoing surgery experienced significantly less pain and anxiety if they listened to either live music therapy or recorded music than children in the control group who did not listen to music. Van der Heijden says: “The question ‘does music work’ calls for a nuanced answer, but the general conclusion of this thesis is positive. Music is usually only appreciated for fun and entertainment, but can also have an added value for children with pain and anxiety. Music deserves a future in hospitals.”

No side effects
According to co-supervisor Prof. Hans Jeekel of Erasmus MC, music is a treatment method that works; a conclusion he can make after years of research. “I want to use music as a new and innovative healthcare treatment.” Jeekel established the Music as Medicine research group several years ago to determine how music can be used in medicine. Music as Medicine aims to give music a presence as an innovative, evidence-based treatment method within and outside the healthcare sector. Music as a sustainable treatment method has no side effects. Easy access to music in combination with minimal costs means that broad application is possible and that it can be cost effective. The systematic literature analysis and high-quality clinical research conducted by the research group contributes to scientific knowledge on the effect and use of music.

See the full press release.

Date published: 7 November 2018.

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