Music Therapy Reduces Pain in People Recovering from Spine Surgery

Music Therapy Reduces Pain in People Recovering from Spine Surgery

By Staff

A new study is pointing to using music therapy as a way to reduce pain in people recovering from spine surgery.  Researchers from The Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine, and the Mount Sinai Department of Orthopaedics compared a group of people recovering from spine surgery using standard postoperative care, to those who complimented that standardized care with music therapy. Their study was published in The American Journal of Orthopedics. 

“This study is unique in its quest to integrate music therapy in medicine to treat post-surgical pain” said John Mondanaro, the study’s lead author and Clinical Director of The Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy. “Postoperative spine patients are at major risk for pain management challenges.”

Postoperative pain was measured using the visual analog scale (VAS), and ratings were collected before and after music therapy in one group, and within the same time period in the control group.  In the experimental group, VAS pain ratings decreased by more than one point — from 6.20 down to 5.09.  The control group showed increased pain levels, from 5.20 to 5.87.

“The degree of change in the music group is notable for having been achieved by non-pharmacologic means with little chance of adverse effects,” said Joanne Loewy, DA, co-author of the study and Director of The Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine. “Pain is subjective and personal, and warrants an individualized approach to care. Certified, licensed music therapists are able to tailor treatment to each patient’s musical preferences and meet their pain level.”

Music therapists from the Louis Armstrong Center provided treatment options to each patient, including patient-preferred, live music that supported tension release/relaxation and joint singing and/or rhythmic drumming. Breathwork and visualization techniques were also offered.

Postoperative pain treatment, which is primarily pharmacologic, is a critical component of recovery, particularly during the immediate postoperative period, when pain and anxiety are prominently increased. For this study, researchers provided 30 spine surgery patients with a 30-minute music therapy session within 72 hours after surgery in addition to standard care. Another 30 spine surgery patients received standard postoperative care without music therapy. The 60 patients ranged in age from 40 to 55 years and underwent anterior, posterior, or anterior-posterior spinal fusion.

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Authored by: Staff

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Ben Aiken Longtime

Post operative spine patients are at major risk for pain management challenges” as published by the American Journal of Orthopaedics. This information was not made available to me 23 years ago before or after two major lower back surgeries. I advised that my pain level would decrease by about an 80% IF I had back surgery. I was and am a 58 year old builder It is my skill to earn my living. I took carpentry in high school as I was unable to “be educated” with college credentials. I have built many homes for people. When the surgeries did NOT improve my pain level and AFTER the orhthopaedic surgeon told me he could no longer provide pain medicine. to me post op, I had no where to turn to try to provide for my still young children. A friend of mine knew what I was going through so she told me of a group of doctors at the local hospital that would help me. A “pain management” clinic offered by a few of the doctors. I really thought they would teach me how to tone the muscles in the pain affected area or otherwise, I just did not know. I was IMMEDIATELY placed on an expensive drug, oxycontin. After several months of experimentation, many back infusions, injections and more drugs, I was at least able to keep working. After several years I was placed on methadone. It was like a miracle drug. It worked well. One 10 mg oral pill lasted all day. No “high”. No “fog’ in my thoughts. I stayed with the same doctor for 14 years. Presently I am with the second pain management doctor for over seven years. He announced the CDC “”””guideline”””and that the methadone prescribed to me would HAVE and MUST be reduced in dosage per day due to an “opioid epidemic”. OK, I’ll do my part.This was announced mid summer, 2016. December, 2016 I am informed by the same physician that I would have to be reduced to 2, that’s 20 milligrams of methadone per day. I at one time with the first doctor’ had been at 16, 160 mgs of methadone per day. At the second “clinic” I was reduced to 100 mgs per day with which I managed to stay employed. I was still able to provide for my family. I was still quite fit, I just had a little more pain to deal with. Now, presently I have been reduced to 20 mgs of methadone per day with no other pain medication supplements. I have and still use ice packs, heating pads, Kratom and CCBD oil (NOT FDA approved) Before opioid medication I went to a chiropractor, did physical therapy, home exercise, and everything BUT marijuana.Seeing that 20 mgs of methadone was just not helping me to provide for myself, the now doctor asked if I would change medications.I complied. I did not care with what I received enough medication to eat, pay my electrical buy, and buy food.… Read more »

Laura P. Schulman, M.D.

This merely corroborates an existing body of evidence that music is a good ADJUNCT to pharmacologic pain management.

It is not a substitute. In our present climate of hysteria lest every major trauma patient leave the hospital an “addict,” we unfortunately must be careful when offering clinicians “alternatives” to opioid based pain management.

And I never go anywhere without my headphones 🙂


I now have heard it all! I am certainly not interested in listening to music when I am in severe pain! When an appropriate level of pain medication has had a chance to take effect and I am in the right mood for listening to music I can relax and enjoy it but once again some fool even suggesting that music that is most likely to cost a fortune since you have to use a licensed professional for treatment isn’t likely to do anything more than make thst person a wad of money! I enjoy many types of music but many like my husband do not so offering music therapy to someone who doesn’t enjoy music would be stupid! Since most if not all of these studies are paid for with my tax dollars I get angry when I hear of this kind of ridiculous study!

Denise Bault

Music has and always will soothe the soul…

Jean Price

I think music is sort of a distraction therapy…something to register in your senses so pain doesn’t…as much. The problem with distraction therapies for those with persistent, daily pain is that the pain is usually increasing the whole time! And then it flattens you! It seems all research these days is designed with ONLY one thing in mind….HOW TO AVOID OPIOIDS, no matter what!! It would make more sense to approach pain research as finding an ADDITIONAL approach to pain relief! And not EXCLUDING ANY of the others available now! Like here, when they measured the success of not “requiring” pain medication for a reduction of pain…which seems to make this research a little biased, I think! Why wouldn’t just measuring the patient’s report of their pain relief be enough? Plus, their numbers for relief really didn’t seem to be all that much to brag about! Less than one point in each category!! One point could be the difference between 9 and 8…still not livable in a daily basis!!

Used as an ADJUNCT THERAPY, I have no doubt that music helps! Yet it isn’t THE ONLY answer overall! Some music actually can increase pain, I’m guessing! I know some is MUCH less relaxing or LESS uplifting than others for me! Wow, this just made me think of something….I hope they don’t ever resort to restricting the TYPES of music we can listen to for pain, also! Wouldn’t that be almost as ridiclous as what is happening now!??