Cepeda, M.S., Carr, D.B., Lau, J., & Alvarez, H. (2010). Music for pain relief. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010(8).doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004843.pub2
To evaluate the effect of listening to music on acute or chronic cancer pain; to relate the effect of listening to music on analgesic requirements
Music has limited utility in clinical practice for pain reduction: A music intervention was associated with minimal reduction in pain intensity. A music intervention was associated with a small reduction in opioid use for the treatment of acute pain. The reduction was smaller than that associated with the use of an NSAID or paracetamol.
The analysis provided little support for the effectiveness of music in the reduction of pain: The size of effects is small, and their clinical relevance is unclear. On the other hand, the analysis revealed no negative effects from the music intervention. Clinicians should be aware of the limited utility of music for pain management. Most of the studies in the analysis did not include patients with cancer; however, the highest effect sizes were in the setting of chronic pain, so a music intervention may be relevant to patients with cancer. Use of music along with other nonpharmaceutical and maximal pharmaceutical pain management may be helpful for some patients. Further research in this area would be useful.