Numerous meta-analyses have been conducted on the topic of music and pain, with the latest comprehensive study published in 2006. Since that time, more than 70 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been published, necessitating a new and comprehensive review.
The aim of this meta-analysis was to examine published RCT studies investigating the effect of music on pain.
The present study included RCTs published between 1995 and 2014. Studies were obtained by searching 12 databases and hand-searching related journals and reference lists. Main outcomes were pain intensity, emotional distress from pain, vital signs, and amount of analgesic intake. Study quality was evaluated according to the Cochrane Collaboration guidelines.
Analysis of the 97 included studies revealed that music interventions had statistically significant effects in decreasing pain on 0–10 pain scales (MD = –1.13), other pain scales (SMD = –0.39), emotional distress from pain (MD = –10.83), anesthetic use (SMD = –0.56), opioid intake (SMD = –0.24), non-opioid intake (SMD = –0.54), heart rate (MD = –4.25), systolic blood pressure (MD = –3.34), diastolic blood pressure (MD = –1.18), and respiration rate (MD = –1.46). Subgroup and moderator analyses yielded additional clinically informative outcomes.
Considering all the possible benefits, music interventions may provide an effective complementary approach for the relief of acute, procedural, and cancer/chronic pain in the medical setting.