True or False: Music decreases pain

True or False: Music decreases pain

Life & Death Matters Post

Correct answer: “It depends!”

Music needs to be personalized for the individual you are caring for.  Play the wrong music, increase the pain… play music that resonates with the person, you may be able to help decrease the pain.

Peaceful music, combined with beautiful photography may decrease stress for those who can relax to the music.  As I watch this video (Prelude in b flat minor, J.S. Bach) from Room 217 and enjoy the images I feel peaceful.  When my grandson, then 4 years old saw this for the first time, he was mesmerized and focused on the music and the images. For both of us, I think the music video would have decreased pain.

In a previous blog I mentioned about using music to stimulate learning. I provided examples from Broadway Musicals.  These particular songs could increase tension and increase pain if the person did not like the style of music, the message in the lyrics, or a memory attached to the music.

A principle of hospice palliative care is to individualize care.  With any comfort measure I suggest “Respect the individual and individualize the care”.  This holds true for music as well as for any other care.


2 Responses

  1. I agree that music can relief pain, but that is not all that it does. I also agree that the music must be individualized — not just as Bev says re it being music that the patient likes. Especially with people with dementia (or delusions caused by medication/etc.), one should be careful about singing songs about ‘flying away on wings’ if the patient is having delusions about flying and likely to fall off of their beds and hurt themselves. Likewise, one should be careful about singing songs too focused on ‘root/cradled in the earth’, if they are frustrated or tired of not being able to move.

  2. Hello dear Kath – loved this article! It reminded me of my little Polish mother-in-law’s death in hospital (not a hospice) five years ago. The music she requested at the bedside in her final days was – wait for it! – her favourite polka songs, like “Who Stole The Kishka?” and “She’s Too Fat For Me”.

    Thank goodness she had a private room.

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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