Hospitals may soon pass out MP3 players to hospital patients to speed their recovery. A study at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge found that ambient music therapy had a positive effect on patients’ postoperative recovery. The music appeared to help improve pain management and decreased the negative effects of environmental noise.

Patients in the study had all undergone surgery for cancer, and all received standard nursing care. Half of the patients also received a preprogrammed MP3 player with ambient music (songs without words, played at less than 60 decibels). Those patients were encouraged to listen for at least half an hour before they took their twice-daily medication. Before treatment, all the patients had comparable levels of pain, anxiety and irritation at the amount of environmental noise. Three days later patients who listened to the ambient music said they were able to better manage their pain and were less annoyed by hospital noise. The study found that patients without music experienced no change.

While most of us already turn to music to help with emotional pain, these findings suggest listening to music may be a balm for physical pain as well.     Scientific American Mind    May/June 2014

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